Linarol Consort: La la hö hö

La la hö hö
Sixteenth-century viol music for the richest man in the world

The Linarol Consort
Inventa Records INV1005. 67’26

It is not known whether the ‘richest man in the world’, the merchant and banker to the Hapsburgs, Jakob Fugger of Augsburg (aka ‘Fugger the Rich’), actually commissioned the manuscript recorded here, as suggested by David Hatcher’s programme notes. But it was certainly in the Fugger library soon after its completion around 1535. That was ten years after Jacob’s death when his nephew Anton Fugger was head of the family and was probably also the ‘richest man in the world’. Following the reduction in the Fugger family’s power in the mid-17th century, their vast library was sold to Emperor Ferdinand where it became the foundation of the National Library of Austria. The manuscript (Vienna Ms. 18-810) contains 86 pieces of German, Flemish and French pieces, mostly by composers such as Heinrich Isaac, Ludwig Senfl and Paul Hofhaimer, linked to the court of Maximillian I, together with Pierre de la Rue and Josquin des Prez, favourites of his daughter Marguerite of Austria, then ruler of The Netherlands.

The manuscript could have been written by Senfl’s main copyist – it is well written by a single scribe and lacks the decorative features of other such manuscripts. Watermarks suggest a Munich provenance, and some dated pieces help to position the manuscript at around 1535.

In this recording, the Linarol Consort of Renaissance Viols (David Hatcher, Asako Morikawa, Alison Kinder, Claire Horáček) presents 27 instrumental pieces from the manuscript (based on a new edition by David Hatcher), with the promise of a second CD with tenor James Gilchrist. The title of the recording, La la hö hö, is from a piece by Heinrich Isaac. Although the extensive programme notes do not include information about individual pieces, I gather that the title is based on a Dervish song heard during a visit of Turkish diplomats to Vienna, the title being a corruption of “La ilaha illa Allah” (There is no God but Allah).

The longest piece lasts 3’49, the shortest just over one minute, so the relationship of pieces to each other is important and, on this recording, is done well with a nice balance of texture and sensible key relationships. There is a reasonable gap between pieces, which helps to prevent it turning into a wall of uninterrupted sound, however attractive that might have been.

As well as the background to the music, the notes make much of the instruments of the Linarol Consort, all based on the sole surviving viol of Francesco Linerol, now in Vienna. A rather technical description will presumably appeal to viol players, although it was a bit beyond me.