"Cantar d'amore"

Love songs from the Italian Renaissance and folk tradition


Ever since people have been falling in love, songs or poetry have been written and addressed to the heart of the beloved. It’s been like this for millennia and hopefully will never change. In the past, the authors of these love songs and poems have been kings, male and female troubadours, vagrant minstrels, maestri di cappella, impoverished poets and countless others of whom unfortunately all traces have been lost. They have all have left us with an inexhaustible wealth of poetry and music, whose earliest traces go back to the Middle Ages.


In Italy, at the beginning of the 16th century musicians started to print and sell music as so-called “flying sheets” (fogli volanti) in the streets and alleys. Soon this generated an unimaginable appetite for music that people could perform themselves at home or in so-called “musical circles”, of which, around the year 1600, there existed over one hundred in Naples alone. This appetite was appeased by numerous composers such as Bartolomeo Tromboncino, Giovan Thomaso di Maio, Johannes Hieronymus Kapsberger, Sbruffapappa, Giovanni Domenico Da Nola and many others, who wrote great quantities of relatively simple and catchy songs that dealt mainly with one topic: love.

For the first time there emerged songbooks “for everyone”, or at least for those belonging to that class who could afford to while away their

time playing the lute. These collections contained, among others, frottole (sillinesses, fibs), canzone, ballate, barzellette (jests), villanelles

and madrigals, all of which dwelt on love and the associated pleasures and pains in a most extensive manner.

In 1537, “Joannes de Colonia”, a German printer who lived in Venice, published the first printed collection of villanelle. It contains fifteen

so-called “canzone villanesche” (rural songs) by different authors, which enjoyed huge popularity for many years.

The art of an interpreter of these songs laid in performing them with such great conviction, ease, virtuosity and at the same time with such

touching simplicity that they practically became his own. At a time where polyphony gained more and more importance, this style was

regarded as the perfect rebirth of antique classical poetry, where it was more important to interpret the often dramatic content than to lose

yourself in artistic elaborations. Admittedly, this kind of singing had already been widespread in the oral tradition of the Mediterranean

before the Renaissance, and it still is today.


Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) was a German Jesuit and polymath who taught and researched at the Collegium Romanum in Rome.

His book "Magnes sive de arte magnetica opus tripartitum" was the first one to document the phenomenon of “tarantismo”, a ritual where

the frantic rhythm of the “tarantella” is supposed to drive the spider’s poison out of its victim’s body – only one of many traditions that

have survived into the 20th century, and maybe even until today.


It does not take long to discover the traces left by these songs in today’s Central and Southern Italian traditional music: the melismatic

singing, the rhythmic and harmonic models, even some musical instruments have practically been in uninterrupted use since the 16th

century and are an inherent part of this folk music.


In this project the ensemble Oni Wytars, together with the Roman singer Gabriella Aiello, are making this timeless poetry their own

and interpret it – as usual in their own inimitable style.


(sources: Aurelio Fierro "Le origini di un canto"; Mimmo Liguoro "I Posteggiatori napoletani", Roberto De Simone "Disordinata storia della canzone napoletana")


Ensemble Oni Wytars:

Gabriella Aiello - voice, tamburello // Peter Rabanser - voice, chalumeau, baroque guitar, bagpipes // Riccardo Delfino - harp, voice

Marco Ambrosini - nyckelharpa, mandolin, jew‘s harp // Michael Posch - recorders // Katharina Dustmann - percussions

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