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4.3 out of 5 stars10
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on May 26, 2003
When I first saw this CD in the New Age rack of a local bookstore, I thought it had been mis-filed from the Classical section. Then I took a look at the combination of modern and early music performers listed in the credits and realized I had discovered something delightfully new. For centuries musicians have been drawing inspiration from Renaissance and medieval music, reinventing it to suit their own eras. And today, ensembles seeking to authentically recreate early music sometimes choose to stretch their boundaries as well, exercising their own creativity and appealing to modern sensibilities. So why not combine the two on one recording? Windham Hill's "Renaissance Album" brings together "straight" early music offerings from esteemed groups like Piffaro and the Baltimore Consort with whimsically inventive modern interpretations from New Age artists like the Angels of Venice, Lisa Lynne, Liz Story and David and Diane Arkenstone. The selections fit quite well together, weaving a tapestry across the centuries that is quaint, courtly, delicate and at times lively and even humorous. Lovers of both ends of the spectrum will find something to enjoy here, and will have a chance to discover a variety of artists whose work they may wish to explore further. If you enjoy Windham Hill's "Rennaissance Album", you may also like another of their compilation albums, "Celtic Christmas 3"; not necessarily either Christmassy or Celtic in tone, it nonetheless features some of the same artists as "The Renaissance Album", and in some ways sets a similar tone.
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on August 7, 2002
Fans of any kind of music or literature often have an evangelical bent. "Come on! Just try this one little bit of theater of the absurd/Captain Beefheart/cyberpunk/whatever..." we say to people. I'm that way about early music. In the old days, there was an inexpensive vinyl compilation that I'd always urge on people as an introduction to early music.

With this CD I think I've found a more recent replacement for that vinyl disc. It has some very well-known names in the early music field (e.g. Piffaro, the Baltimore Consort), various performers who tend to get the "new age" label, whether they want it or not :), and some people who, with all due respect, one wouldn't at all expect to see on an early music collection, such as Ann and Nancy Wilson, formerly of Heart, or slack key virtuoso Keola Beamer.

If you're hard core about authentic instrumentation, much of this album will set your teeth on edge--but IMHO, all the performers here acquit themselves very well indeed. High points for me were Lisa Lynne's performance of Monteverdi's "Si dolce e'l tormento," Michael Hedges's sprightly take on a de Mudarra fantasia, and Keola Beamer's breathtaking performance of Dowland's "If My Complaints Could Passions Move."

The CD's irritants for me are few: "My Thing Is My Own" is a one-joke song that way overstays its welcome, and the graphic artists at Windham Hill must've been trying to make the insert just as hard to read as they possibly could have!

If you're new to early music, give this CD a try. If you're heavily into it, you'll most likely still enjoy it, and you'll have something you can lend out to spread the habit to your friends--if we get enough people started, we can have the Waverly Consort playing stadiums instead of the latest boy band! :)
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on December 7, 2004
I had a few qualms about picking this one up. Being a Windham Hill release, I was wondering if I was going get a lot of synthesized New Age mush. But this is a wonderful album. Some of the pieces are played pretty straight on traditional instruments, while others stretch the boundaries (Hawaiian guitar, Peruvian flutes). Even when a synthesizer makes an occasional appearance, it doesn't intrude. Although purists may disagree, the performers very much capture the spirit of Renaissance music.

Among the highlights are the previously mentioned piece using Native American and Indian flutes, "O Vos Omnes", by Barry Stramp; the Hawaiian guitar piece, "If My Complaints Could Passions Move"; George Winston playing guitar instead of his usual piano on the French "Villanelle"; and the late Michael Hedges's "Fantasia", which gets a slightly harsh, jazz-rock feel which actually works.

There are only two vocal numbers. David Arkenstone and his wife provide some absolutely stunning vocal harmonies to Claudio Monteverdi's devotional prayer "Domine ad Adjuvandum". The concluding track, the baudy "My Thing is My Own", is arguably the weakest thing here. Performed by Ann and Nancy Wilson, the vocal melody is a bit outside of Ann's singing range. But it's fun.

A relaxing, entertaining CD recommended for everyone.
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on August 22, 2001
I bought this CD when I happened to come across it at Borders. I've been a New Age fan for awhile, and being a history person, I've also been interested in this time period. Who would have thought I'd find a CD that would blend both of those together?
This CD is very good. I have to echo the other two reviews on the site in saying that it is great music to listen to at work when you need something in the background. The music takes you back in time to a simpler period, bringing to mind images of Shakespeare and county festivals in the English countryside.
Most of the music is very light and upbeat, but there are some pieces that are a bit more moody. I'm listening to Barry Stramp's piece (O Vos Omnes) right now and I can picture an old cathedral church service. Other pieces make you want to get up and dance. If I didn't recognize the names of the some of the artists, I could easily have thought that this music was actually written in the 16th century.
It's not to everybody's taste. However, I doubt anybody would find this CD to begin with unless they were interested in this type of music. Given that, I would recommend it to anybody interested in a different sound then the typical New Age music.
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on December 3, 2005
If you're just "getting into" Renaissance, Ancient, or Celtic music, you should add this one to your collection. It was one of the first I bought, and I still listen to it frequently. One of my very favorites is "Si Je Perdais Mon Ami" by George's the haunting theme-music to the great Masterpiece Theatre "Elizabeth R" starring Glenda Jackson. And of course the bawdy final song about remaining chaste ("My Thing is My Own" by Nancy Wilson) is terrific. All in all, it is a CD with great variety and quality and it will "spur you on to" more Ancient/Celtic/Renaissance music, helping you "decide what you like" so you can start building your collection.
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on January 14, 2003
I listen to this CD at work A LOT! It seems to transport me to another time and place. The music is light and upbeat. There is a wonderful vocal that concludes the CD by Ann Wilson from Heart. Simply awesome!
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on January 22, 2000
I work at a New Age shop and this plays by request most every day. I like "The Thing is My Own" by Nancy and Ann Wilson (who I believe are the ladies in Heart). Good, up-beat yet relaxing music that's a wonderful addition to the workday.
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on April 26, 2000
Really good music in this CD! Bought it on a lark and was very pleasantly surprised when I played it. The collection of mainly instrumentals are first class and if you like to work with music in the background than I highly recommend it to you.
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on January 20, 2013
If you're into real Renaissance music, this won't be your cup of tea. This is more like the background noise for a New Age Celtic fair.
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on March 2, 2015
It's alright. Not really what I wanted. It is very choral style renaissance music. It is slow, but rich. I got the mp3 version as a substitute for a CD I had, but lost and was not available digitally. I wish the tech I was working with had just granted the credit and let me pick the music instead of substituting this album and thinking it was equal to what I had/was interested in. I didn't get to listen to samples before downloading. If I had I wouldn't have accepted it.
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