Vol. 1, No. 2


Geoffrey Gordon


The title refers to the town of Ferrara, Italy, a home and haven to the arts during the reign of Duke Borso d’Este, for whom Francesco del Cossa (c. 1435-c.1476), painted a series of frescoes for his Palazzo Schifanoia, circa 1469-1470. Specifically, inspiration for this work is drawn from the panel for April (del Cosso created an astonishing cycle of twelve calendrical frescoes, the Cycle of the Months, only partially preserved today), featuring the mythical Three Graces--whose names comprise the movement titles--amid an array of lovers in varying stages of entangled indulgence.

For his part, the Duke cultivated instrumental music to a degree hardly surpassed elsewhere in early Renaissance Italy, and this, too, is reflected in the April fresco, where the atmosphere of sweet connubial bliss is enhanced by symbols of harmony and aural concord: lutes and recorders in the hands of misty-eyed maidens. (The message here is intentionally transparent, with the rounded resonator of the lute implying anticipated pregnancy, and the recorder a well-known--in Italy in 1470, at any rate--phallic symbol.)

This work, in response, blends fragments of music from Ferrara, or what might reasonably be assumed to be music of this time and place, into a contemporary texture of modern rhythms and harmonies. Josquin and Ockeghem are prominently featured, with the third movement consisting almost entirely of references to the Omnium bonorum plena of Loyset Compere, an amazing work which served then and now as a prayer for all the composers of this era. Listen to the whispers of the performers, as the Echoes of Ferrara resonate across the 21st century.

Geoffrey Gordon
7 February, 2006