Review of Diminuito by Rolf Lislevand, ECM, 2009
“Diminuito” sounds like a curious title for this cd. In the booklet that accompanies the CD Maestro Rolf Lislevand gives us an explanation about this name: “Diminutions, divisions, or glosas were one of the renaissance’s unique inventions. Technically it means embellishing a melody into a much more flavored and elaborated melody in faster movement and shorter rhythmical values, presuming that the simple melody still remains in the listener’s mind. This supreme discipline of ornamentation became a new work of art in itself. The original composition on the other hand was reduced to a humble servant of this invention – an object of abuse for an instrumental protagonist without further empathies neither consideration of its origin. The art of diminutions changed the lives of the plucked instruments in a radical way, because until then players of lutes, guitars and keyboards as well always wearied one sorrow with their music: the unfulfilled desire of playing a real melody on their instrument.
A plucked instrument’s sound will never be able to “sing” like a violin, a cello, a trumpet, an oboe or the human voice: the art of diminution brought a radical transformation about the way that plucked instruments’ sounds were designed, something quite similar to what occurred for plucked electric instruments in our day. The electric guitar’s distorted sound made this instrument similar to a string and changed all its musical logic. Diminutions allowed to plucked instrument to recover some of the qualities of the human voice, phrasing, colors and dynamics, highlighting the lute as a protagonist, a soloist and a conductor, creating a multi-colored mosaic of lights, shadows, musical joints and intensity, able to bring an incomparable value added to the simple and beloved melody.
The result is a fresh, lively and pleasant record, where music flows in a controlled/uncontrolled “divertimento” which makes almost impossible to choose a passage instead of another. I must confess that I lingered more on listening to “La Perra Mora”, a piece in 5/2 characterized by an incredible groove with a refined polyphony, where the colascione, the triple harp and the lute compete in solos on a thick polyphonic contrapuntal carpet, and the stunning “Fantasia que contraze the harpa en la manera de Ludovico”, one of the most original patterns for the lute, here played by the ensemble as a counterpoint characterized by harsh dissonances ahead of centuries of our contemporary Neu Musik.
A great record, played by great musicians, supported by a great musical intelligence!