DIEGO ORTIZ: Recercadas del Tratado de Glosas (Roma 1553) – Jordi Savall, viola da gamba/ Ton Koopman, clavicembalo and organo di legno/ Andrew Lawrence-King, arpa doppia/ Rolf Lislevand, vihuela and guitare/ Paolo Pandolfo, viola da gamba/ Lorenz Duftschmid, violone  – Alia Vox Heritage (Vol. 16) multichannel SACD AVSA9899, 49:39 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

I’ll say it up front: at only 50 minutes and about $20, this album is providing a lot of obstacles in wanting to purchase it. Volume 16 of Alia Vox’s Heritage series is of course worth its weight in gold in terms of artistic merit, but whether it’s worth actual money to you is something else. Ortiz is an important composer for this period, one of the best; but there are lots of other releases clamoring for your dollars, including in this series itself, so you might want to sample first, which you should really be doing anyway.

Little is known about the life of Spanish viol player and composer Diego Ortiz. He shows up on Rome in 1553 with the publication of this work, but the rest is a mystery. It must be a mature work, and most likely Ortiz had already completed his musical education when he left his native country. Yet we don’t know when he was born, where he studied or with whom, or anything else about his life before he went to Italy. He mastered the art of variation and every indication is that he was a spectacular gamba player. According to the notes, “in 1553 he served as maestro da capilla at the court of the Viceroy of Naples (one of the states in the Italian peninsula which was under Spanish rule), Don Fernando Alvarez of Toledo (1507- 1582), the third Duke of Alba, Captain General of the army of Charles V and Philip II, and later Governor in the Netherlands (1567-1573). It seems that Diego Ortiz spent the following five years (until 1558) serving at the ducal palace in the same capacity as choirmaster.”

Ricercar for Ortiz literally means “seeking anew”, and this group of fantasias and variations—the style is new for the time and difficult to pin down–is quite intricate, colorful, and creative, and of course it goes without saying that the performances are magnificent in every way, as is the remastered sound. Yet I must reiterate—this is not a lot of music and is a lot of money, and Alia Vox really should consider lowering its prices on 25-year-old recordings.


Recercadas Sobre El Canto Llano “LA SPAGNA”; Recercadas Sobre El Madrigal “O FELICI OCCHI MIEI” by J. Arcadelt; Recercadas Para Viola De Gamba Solo; Recercadas Sobre La Cancion “DOULCE MEMOIRE” by P. Sandrin; Recercadas Sobre Tenores

—Steven Ritter