William Yeoman

This latest release fromŽ ak Ozmo again demonstrates the London-based lutenist and conductor’s searching intellect and wry imagination. But it also disappoints in the way much conceptual art does, with the execution not quite living up to the idea behind it.

That’s probably not fair on Ozmo’s playing, which is first-rate throughout the length of these interminable sets of Renaissance dances. Neither is it perhaps fair to composer Vincenzo Galileo’s music either, which taken in smaller doses is never less than intriguing, the interplay between polyphony, homophony and monody a microcosm of the theoretical battleground upon which Galileo and other precursors of the Baroque style valiantly fought. And yet …

A member of his patron Giovanni de’ Bardi’s Florentine Camerata, Galilei—father of scientist Galileo and lutenist Michelagnolo—wrote a number of theoretical treatises and collections of music, including the Libro d’intavolature di liuto of 1584. One of the earliest publications to explore the virtues of equal temperament, the collection presents groups of the aforementioned dances in both Dorian and Ionian modes on each of the 12 degrees of the chromatic scale. Ozmo presents 20 dances on the first four ‘tones’.

Ozmo admits these may never have been intended for performance, such is the difficulty of some of the keys. Thus results are mixed. But there is still much to enjoy here—again, in small doses. Like the stately variations of the Passamezzo antico on Tone I which opens the recital, and the spacious Saltarello on Tone IV, its flowing divisions executed with an affective subtlety which characterises Ozmo’s beautiful, fluent playing as a whole.