Bryan, John (2004) A Songbook for Isabella: music from the circle of Isabella d’Este. [Composition]

The CD is informed by Professor Bryan’s research into the development of performance practice, using a unique set of late
15th-century viols constructed at the researcher’s request after a 1497 painting by Lorenzo Costa.

1) Musica Antiqua of London has given six performances of this repertory, including Royal Northern College of Music,
Manchester; Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyesi, International Festival of Baroque Music; York Early Music Festival; Djanogly
Concert Hall, University of Nottingham; and has given radio broadcasts: A Songbook for Isabella from Tage Alter Musik, Herne,
Germany (WDR Köln) and All the sizes of the world! from Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London (BBC Radio 3).
2) ‘Verie sweete and artificiall’; Lorenzo Costa and the earliest viols’, in the online proceedings of the Pan-Pacific Gamba
Gathering, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, 2007 (
3)Copy of programme.

This CD represents the first outcome of research into the earliest viols, as represented in Lorenzo Costa’s painting Madonna
and Child enthroned with SS. Augustine, Posidonius, John & Francis, in San Giovanni in Monte, Bologna. This shows
instruments with characteristics similar to those seen in pictures of lire da braccio closely associated with the court of Isabella
d’Este, who later employed Costa, and which are therefore highly appropriate for the performance of music from her circle. A set
of instruments was built, based on research findings, from those in Costa’s painting, and a style of playing devised that explored
the capabilities of these hypothetical instruments. After exploring different tuning systems, pitch standards and bowing
techniques, the research was presented through concert performances and this CD. An article reporting the research behind the
choice of Costa’s painting as a model for these viols, and a critique of their effectiveness in performing the appropriate
repertory, is to be published in Early Music in early 2008.

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