Godiamo ci il Papato, poichè Dio ci l’ha dato. ‘Let us enjoy the papacy, since God has given it to us’ – thus, according to a contemporary report, Giovanni de’ Medici, the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, on becoming pope in March 1513. Enjoy it he did. In the eight years of his reign, Leo X, as Giovanni now became known, lived extravagantly, holding banquet after banquet, hunt after hunt, and sometimes parading a white elephant through Rome. His costly enthusiasms extracted their price, of course; within two years of taking the throne, he had turned a handsome surplus left him by his predecessor into a deficit, and before long he had to raise funds by such dubious tricks as selling indulgences on a grand scale – provoking what would eventually become the Reformation. Yet Leo did not exhaust the papal treasury on frivolous things alone. A man of extensive humanistic learning, he supported notable scholars and poets, including Pietro Bembo; commissioned major works from Raphael; and initiated significant building projects. Above all, Leo loved music. He knew it from the inside, possessing sufficient technical knowledge to compose in five voices. He staffed the papal choir – the body responsible for music at liturgical services – with some of the most eminent singers and composers of his day, and he maintained a private body of musicians that similarly included several highly prized singers, composers, and instrumentalists.
Much of the music heard at Leo’s court has vanished. We don’t know what his lutenists performed, nor can we retrieve the improvisations of his wind players. But we have an impressive record of the sophisticated polyphony sung around him: several manuscripts and printed books produced at his court or in its immediate orbit preserve works of both his own composers and others favoured by him and his musicians. A particularly vivid image of Leo’s musical world comes from the so-called Medici Codex, a collection of 53 motets possibly meant at first for Leo’s private use but ultimately presented to his nephew Lorenzo de’ Medici, Duke of Urbino, as Lorenzo returned with his new bride, the French princess Madeleine de la Tour d’Au-vergne, to Italy in the late summer of 1518. With the exception of the first and last pieces, all the music on this recording comes from the Medici Codex.
Gaude felix Florentia Andreas De Silva
Virgo gloriosa Christi, Margareta Adrian Willaert
Saluto te, sancta Virgo Maria Adrian Willaert
Videns dominus civitatem desolatam Johannes de la Fage