14th-century voice heard

Concert: Anonymous 4, whose recent CD brings Francesco Landini out of obscurity, will perform the Italian composer's love songs as part of the Candlelight series


October 25, 2001|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Posterity hasn't been all that kind to Francesco Landini, the Italian composer whose deftly crafted polyphonic harmonies were all the rage in 14th-century Florence.

Barely remembered in the modern era, Landini was also an eloquent librettist, penning his singable odes to love, beauty and desire just decades after the great Florentine poet Dante had wrested these once taboo topics from the closed recesses of the medieval mind.

But aesthetic justice has triumphed, for Signor Landini is a forgotten man no longer. His remarkable songs have been rescued from obscurity by Anonymous 4, the all-female vocal quartet whose beautiful singing and state-of-the-art musicology have combined to make them one of classical music's most successful recording ensembles over the past 15 years. In fact, their newly released compact disc, The Second Circle: Love Songs of Francesco Landini, is one of the loveliest releases of their distinguished discography.

Candlelight Concerts of Columbia adds luster to its young concert season Saturday evening when it presents the Anonymous 4 in concert at Smith Theatre on the campus of Howard Community College. The 8 p.m. program will consist of Landini's love songs, augmented by poetry written by Dante.

It is fitting that Dante's words should be spoken between songs such as "Echo la Primavera" (Behold the Springtime), "Angelica Bilta" (Angelic Beauty) and "Nella Partita" (At Our Parting), for it was the poet's lyrical style that inspired the flowing, multivoiced style of Francesco's harmonies.

Even the program title comes from Dante's Divine Comedy, the groundbreaking work in which the poet described the "Second Circle" as the region of hell where the souls of sinners who had known carnal lust in life were blown about in darkness by fierce winds.

Fourteenth-century folks may have been on the cusp of a new age, but medieval notions of sin and sexuality were still very much in the air.

This is not the first remarkable voyage of musical discovery the Anonymous 4 have given us over the years. Their English Ladymass explored medieval man's love affair with the Virgin Mary.

Mass for the End of Time spoke of the fear of final judgment that gripped Europe a thousand years ago as the second millennium approached.

Legends of St. Nicholas, medieval Christmas songs and the sacred chants of Hildegard of Bingen - abbess, mystic, composer and darling of New Agers everywhere - are some of the other fascinating programs recorded by this altogether rare quartet that visits Columbia this weekend.

Tickets to the Anonymous 4 concert at 8 p.m. Saturday at Smith Theatre: Candlelight Concerts, 410-715-0034 or 301-596-6203. General admission tickets cost $24; $18 for senior citizens; $9 for students. The public is invited to a post-concert discussion with members of Anonymous 4 and WETA's Robert Aubry Davis.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.