Pierre Attaingnant (ca. 1494-ca. 1552) merits a few lines in textbooks as the "royal printer of music," active in Paris in the first half of the 16th century. Listeners may get the impression from the graphics on this Naxos release that he was a composer as well, when in fact he wasn't. What you get on this album is a sampling of the keyboard music he had arranged and printed. This is rare because, as veteran harpsichordist Glen Wilson explains, the original printed music contained so many errors that they were all but unplayable at a distance of almost five centuries. Wilson whipped these pieces into shape, and his contribution is valuable for this reason alone. Like other collections of early keyboard music, Attaingnant's publication is derived from chansons and dances, with one motet; Wilson intelligently alternates between them. What's most interesting is that the arrangements, all by unnamed composers, diverge quite a bit from the by-the-numbers pieces of keyboard music coming out of the Low Countries around the same time. They are quite ornate, and clearly split from their models at times. Wilson appends a group of pieces not published by Attaingnant, and these are even more intricate. Sample Seigneur Dieu, ta pitié s'estende dessus moi by Guillaume Costeley, surely one of the most ambitious keyboard pieces of the day. Wilson courts monotony by using only one harpsichord throughout, an early Italian model. He retorts that he has quite enough to do to master one instrument, but other players have managed. On balance, however, an invaluable release for fans of early keyboard music.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim