Fretwork's Ottaviano Dei Petrucci: Harmonice Musices Odehecaton is the first recording in 35 years to address its very important topic, the first volume of polyphonic music ever printed. Ottaviano Dei Petrucci was the inventor of a new and stylish kind of music printing the secrets of which are lost to us, and the first volume issued by his press, Harmonice Musices Odehecaton, was issued in three part-books in 1501, containing 96 pieces. This was a wide cross-section of the popular tunes leading up to that day, including works by Josquin, Obrecht, Heinrich Isaac, Alexander Agricola, and many anonymous works. As these pieces were untexted, it appears that instrumental performance was what Petrucci had in mind, though his next volume in 1503 was the first of several devoted to sacred vocal music. The quality of these prints was uncommonly high, and it would take a long time for the still nascent music printing industry to catch up in this regard.
Fretwork performs a generous selection of 32 pieces from the Harmonice Musices Odehecaton and two other, related Petrucci volumes of the same, or slightly later, vintage. Recorded at Forde Abbey, Harmonia Mundi's sound is close and warm, though a tad metallic, and the sequencing of the disc pulls together several works that sound roughly the same in some spots. However, Fretwork plays these pieces beautifully and with a certain winsome charm, and Ottaviano Dei Petrucci: Harmonice Musices Odehecaton is a highly engaging album to enjoy, not to mention quite soothing and pleasant to listen to.