This release by master lutenist Paul O'Dette has an unusual history. It was slated to be recorded in L'Aquila, the 16th century composer Marco dall'Aquila, but those plans were disrupted by the 2009 earthquake that devastated that historic Apennine Italian town. Plans were laid to record the album in a nearby church, but that, too, suffered damage. Finally the recording was made in a castle in Capestrano, the Castello Piccolomini. As the booklet notes, the acoustic environment of this venue is "perhaps more reveberant than one is accustomed to hearing on lute recordings," and that's putting it mildly. In place of the close-in, intellectual, interior lute environment is a recording that's not only reverberant but distant, causing the more complex among dall'Aquila's polyphonic pieces to run together into a sort of fantastic haze. Sample several pieces to see whether you like the sound; it's unusual, but you may well find that you do. As the booklet also points out, it's entirely possible that dall'Aquila played in this space. Furthermore, the acoustic fits with O'Dette's quiet, easy, slightly mysterious playing. The appearance of an entire disc devoted to dall'Aquila, otherwise largely represented only by one or two pieces that do not convey the totality of his style, is also welcome. It seems to contain many of the later developments of Renaissance lute music in outline form, with dances, versions of vernacular songs, "divisions" or short variations, artful settings of polyphonic pieces, and even passages in the arpeggiated style later known as the style brisé. O'Dette's playing is, as usual, gorgeous. Listen to the final setting of Josquin's In te domine speravi, which he dedicates to those affected by the quake, and marvel at the way the polyphony seems to die away in the castle's vast spaces.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim