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Two Corants for Lyra Viol by Alfonso

Saturday, 1 July, 2017

On the face of it, a blog entry with the title “Two Corants for Lyra Viol by Alfonso” has a touch of the perplexing about it. What’s a “corant”, and why two of them? And then there’s the “lyra viol”. Not just a viol, mind you, but a lyra viol. Topping if all of, we have “Alfonso”. If people had to pick an Alfonso, most would opt for Alfonso Cuarón, the film director, whose works include Children of Men and Gravity. In this case, however, we’re talking about Alfonso Fontanelli (1557 – 1622).

Alfonso Fontanelli was an Italian composer, diplomat and courtier. He was one of the earliest composers in the seconda pratica style during the transition to the Baroque era but his career was interrupted in November 1601, when he discovered that his wife had been having an affair. He murdered her lover, but spared her life, unlike his musical acquaintance Gesualdo who, in similar circumstances murdered both his wife and her lover. As punishment for the crime, Alfonso was stripped of all his possessions. Still, he found refuge in the opulent Roman household of Cardinal Alessandro d’Este, and was thus saved from indignity. Alfonso Fontanelli became a priest in 1621, and died in early 1622 from an insect bite while in the Oratorio della Chiesa.

The lyra viol is a small bass viol, used primarily in the 17th century, while a corant was a type of dance popular in the late Renaissance and Baroque era.

Bringing it all together now: The Irish viola de gamba player, Liam Byrne, is part of the Icelandic collective Bedroom Community and he features with violist Nadia Sirota on Tessellatum, their upcoming album and film. That’s all a long way from the Renaissance world of Alfonso Fontanelli, but everything’s connected.


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