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This review is from: The A-La-Mi-Re Manuscripts - Flemish Polyphonic Treasures (Audio CD)
Early Music programs are a lot like fine wines; single vintage bottlings are the fashion, but sometimes blends are easier on the palette. Likewise, most high-end recordings of Renaissance and Baroque tend to be "complete" works by a single composer. That works well enough for Baroque oratorios, but Renaissance music comes in smaller packages - motets, villancicos, carmina, usually no more tha four to six minutes long. I know from hard experience that a concert program of 15 similar motets, however finely performed, will be hard to sell.
Capilla Flamenca has taken another option, a blended program of vocal works by different composers spiced with instrumental fantasies of the same era. The risk of such a concert program is lack of focus and unity, but Capilla Flamenca has answered that challenge by the neat device of centering their program around Petrus Alamire, one of the great calligrapher and manuscript illuminators of the 16th Century, whose work was avidly collected by Charles V and Margarite of Austria. The name "Alamire" is a musical jest, A for the tonic note, la, mi, and re for the intervals of the scale. The man's real name was Imhofe.
Composers represented on this CD include Josquin Desprez, Pierre de la Rue, Heinrich Isaac, Jean Mouton, Adrian Willaert, and Anon -- all the greats of the Flemish musical mafia which conquered all of Europe in the 15th and 16th Centuries. Instrumental works are performed on "alta capella" shawms and trombones, solo lute, and "bassa capella" viola da gamba consort. In this context, 'alta' means loud, 'bassa' means soft. 'Flamenco' means Flemish, by the way; the Flemish influence on Spanish music of the Renaissance was the starting point for the later Spanish popular music we now call flamenco.
I found this CD on a shelf in my apartment in Rome. I must have bought it five or six years ago, and never got around to listening to it until now. What a stunning surprise! This relatively unknown ensemble of young Belgians can really sing, and sing this repertoire as proudly as if it were their national heritage, which it is. The instrumentalists are all part of an ensemble called La Caccia, also Belgian judging by their names. Their bright tones are as effective as ginger for cleansing the musical palette between sips of oak-barrel aged vocal polyphony.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 27, 2008 6:48:52 AM PDT
Jay Young says:
This has been on my wish list for a while now. It looks worth getting. Thanks!
Posted on Aug 28, 2008 7:05:35 AM PDT
H. Schneider says:
Flemish fire? Smart Bushists? Vegetarian tigers?
What else are you going to offer us here, GH?
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 1, 2008 6:29:16 AM PDT
James E. Egolf says:
I like Mr. Schneider's oxymoron phrases.
Posted on Nov 13, 2009 12:34:18 PM PST
the customer says:
You MUST - yes, that is an order - give a listen to Ensemble Cinquecento's recording "Music for the Court of Maximilian II." At least one tenor from Capilla Flamenca is currently a member of Cinquecento. They sing several pieces by Jacobus Vaet (and a parody mass on his motet "Ascendetis post filium").
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2009 10:00:44 AM PST
Okay. I'm planning a visit tomorrow to a gigantic book-CD store in Berlin, Dussman, where you can open and listen to any CD instock - and they have nearly everything. A civilized system!
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2009 4:54:53 PM PST
I did not know Dussman. (Berlin is huge, and I got lost many times.) I will definitely visit it next time I travel through Berlin.
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