Galilei was a respected member of the Camerata, an influential group of humanists, musicians, poets and intellectuals active in Florence in the late 1500s. The music here is taken from his Il Primo Libro d’intavolatura di liuto (1584), written for a six-course lute and which Ozmo, in the outstanding booklet notes, calls the first substantial musical collection to champion the versatility of a well-tempered tuning system, demonstrating the lute’s ability to transpose pieces to any of the 12 degrees of an equally tempered scale. Ozmo explains in fascinating detail the philosophical, interpretational and technical challenges that the work presents—which he says push both the player and the instrument to their limits—as well as the questions that need to be answered in order to perform it.
The technical challenges are clearly handled well, although the playing seems a bit dry and tight at times, no doubt due to the fact that in order to play the pieces on each step of the scale, the index finger of the left hand needs to be kept flat on the fingerboard after the first step. Anyone who has ever tried playing classical guitar with a permanent full barre chord will know what that entails!
Still, this is a fascinating CD that will doubtless more than repay repeated listening.