Faenza 117

Virtuoso Keyboard Music in Fourteenth-Century Italy

David Catalunya · clavisimbalum



The manuscript Faenza, Biblioteca Comunale, MS 117, is the earliest and largest surviving collection of keyboard music in Western Europe. Compiled around 1400-1425, it contains music dating back to the 1340s. Since its rediscovery in the early twentieth century, the Faenza keyboard repertoire has long been admired for its very high degree of virtuosity and its boundless musical fantasy.


In this recital, David Catalunya presents a fresh look at this outstanding source of instrumental music. The chosen instrument is a newly reconstructed hammered clavisimbalum; a sort of medieval ‘pianoforte’ able to produce a wide range of dynamics. This instrument, described by sources from the period as a ‘mechanized psaltery’, thus adds an unsuspected layer of expressivity and refinement to the fourteenth-century keyboard music. The concert also features the hammered clavisimbalum accompanied by the rich and powerful sonority of a full carillon of fourteen Pythagorean bells and a plucked psaltery, thus recreating a striking instrumental combination which was actually quite common to and typical of late medieval Italy. The selection of pieces covers the wide variety of musical genres represented in the Faenza manuscript: Italian madrigals, French virelais, dance music, and the most ornamented and virtuoso settings of sacred music. The program also includes a few pieces from other contemporaneous manuscripts transmitting Trecento instrumental music.