“Codex Faenza” is a solo album by Ilze Bertrana, a Latvian harpsichordist and organist living in Belgium, which features 14th century music recorded in the 15th century from the “Faenza Codex” collection, which is one of the oldest notes for keyboard and voice. Ilze Bertrāna plays and interprets them on a medieval harpsichord ball, built by harpsichord and organ master Kaspars Putriņš, based on 15th century sketches.
“In Latvia and elsewhere, they are rather little-known and not much-played pages of music, which imperceptibly move the listener into an unusual, difficult-to-sound atmosphere. Everything is unusual: both the high virtuosity of such archaic music and the rhythmic and harmonious language that resolves and stops, and sometimes takes you in an unexpected direction. The sound itself, the instrument and perhaps the unheard of pythagorean tuning are also unusual. This recording is made in analog technology on a tape recorder, with only a few recordings per sheet music and very minimal processing. Of course, this is not an authentic medieval recording style, but in many respects this choice quite naturally connects with the direction we have already chosen as a musician and Kaspars Putriņš as the builder of the instrument here. ”Harpsichordist and organist Ilze Bertrāna said about the codex Codeenza .
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Bertran has released a solo album featuring 15th and 14th century music on the piano of a medieval instrument. In the Latvian Radio program “Kultūras Rondo” the musician said: “This is a very special instruments. Because it is a harpsichord built in Latvia and not only a harpsichord, but a specially medieval instrument – a harpsichord, a medieval harpsichord. It was made by the Latvian master Kaspars Putriņš, and I have probably been quite close to the whole project, thoughts, ideas, why it was made in Latvia and why it is being developed further. ”
Bertran emphasized that the new instrument is unique, because historical, original instruments have not been preserved, only visual material – drawings, frescoes, sculptures – and music are available.
“Combining these two elements together has created tools that Putriņš has made and that fell into my hands. I am honored to play this instrument on the record, and the feelings are absolutely special, ”said Bertran.
The musician noted – such instruments have not disappeared, but they have developed further for another repertoire, become larger and louder. “This instrument is absolutely unique because they are very small in size, but they are tuned and designed in such a way that he still carries quite a lot of sound to the outside.
This record has also been made in a very special place and with very good acoustics, which is also, of course, very important.
It happened at Nurme Church in Kurzeme, where Putriņš simply took me and showed me this place, and said that it would happen here. It is a 16th century building in which almost nothing inside has been restored and changed, and the atmosphere is so special that there is no electricity even on the ceiling. Electricity is, but only pulled sideways and in the headlights. Probably there are not many such places anymore, ”said Bertrāna.
The difficult-to-transport instrument will continue to remain in Latvia for others to play on.
“It gives others the opportunity to get acquainted with the instrument and maybe come to play and use it, because he is with a master.
This is the main idea, so that it does not stay in my hands, but so that it expands a bit, ”the musician emphasized.
The title of the album, Codex Faenza, refers to the manuscript from which, as Bertran said, the music records come from. Faenza is a city in Italy. The musician explained: “Manuscripts are given names depending on where they are in the library. “
Putriņš, the manufacturer of the instrument, emphasized: “In fact, it is already a question of how to create this prototype of the instrument in such a way that it corresponds to what it was called in essence. It is not so quick to find, it needs to improve a lot. ” Putriņš also noted that another valuable instrument that should definitely be renewed is the clavichord, although he acknowledged that he does not have time to devote time to it at the moment. “Lately, these medieval models have become more involved, because it seems that it is all very small and simple – thirty-five notes.
It changes terribly, he is so compact, so small that it literally changes from every millimeter to the whole overall sound and also the feeling of how to play it. ”
Putriņš pointed out that a lot of work still needs to be done to create the instrument, but thanks to this recording, the right tuning height of the instrument was found.
The album “Codex Faenza” was recorded on July 29 and 30, 2019 at the Nurme Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lauciene. The sound director is Kaspars Putriņš, but the artwork of the artist Zane Putniņa and photographs by photographers Okskars Upenieks and Artis Kokņevičs are used in the design of the cover of the album.
About the musician
Ilze Bertrāna is a specialist in early baroque, renaissance and medieval music. Studied in Latvia, Sweden, France and the Netherlands. Ilze Bertrāna’s main work is educating young musicians in piano, organ and harpsichord playing, while playing concerts in solo or various ensembles.