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Codex Faenza: Instrumental Music of the Early 15th Century

4.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Audio CD, July 28, 1998
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Editorial Reviews

Format: Music CD, Naxos Records. Hard to find World Music CD.
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Ensemble Unicorn
  • Conductor: Michael Posch
  • Composer: Codex Faenza
  • Audio CD (July 28, 1998)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B000009OM1
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,262 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on December 12, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Unicorn is simply amazing. They turn out CD after CD, all at budget prices, all far surpassing most other early music efforts. Codex Faenza's pieces are mostly two-part, with a florid upper melody supported by a slower-moving tenor. This allows full display of Unicorn's virtuosity -- unlike their Dufay release, which cramped their style with its elaborate polyphony. The opening improvisations are magical, the subtle treatments of text and context fascinating -- and track 10 is the craziest vielle piece I've ever heard
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Format: Audio CD
Upon first listen, you might think that "Codex Faenza: Instrumental Music of the Early 15th Century" is wrongly named. These works were composed by 14th Century composers, such as Machaut and Landini, and several songs appear as vocal arrangements without instrumentation.

That's where the "Codex Faenza" comes in. This tome was an early 15th century book of instrumental arrangements of 14th century music. The Unicorn Ensemble performs several works from the Codex Faenza, sometimes preceding the instrumental version with the original vocal arrangement for comparison. The last two tracks, the anonymous compositions "Kyrie" and "Ave maris stella," feature alternating sections of plainchant and organ music.

In many cases, the busy melodies gain something in the translation. The top lines have an improvisatory quality that can seem odd when sung, but sound more natural when played instrumentally. The Unicorn Ensemble has mastered late medieval/early Renaissance instrumentation, and their performances effectively evoke the spirit of past times.

I was somewhat critical of The Unicorn Ensemble's version of Dufay's "Chansons" for making Guillaume Dufay's music sound more conservative than it really was. Here, the group does the opposite: they update the sound of Ars Nova composers and demonstrate how their achievements foreshadowed the continued musical advances of the early Renaissance. It's an academic exercise in many ways, but one well worth studying.
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Format: Audio CD
When I purchased this album, I was expecting it to be more akin to the other music performed by the Ensemble Unicorn. I was expecting quick and lively, music akin to the Spanish Troubadour tunes and Las Cantigas de Santa Maria. I was wrong, and I was disappointed at first. I quickly changed my mind after giving the entire album a listen, and was enchanted.
If you like the quick, lively medieval tunes, then this album may not be your cup of tea. However, I don't think any early music collection is complete without this, and I found that even slower medieval tunes have their virtues, particularly when performed by the always impressive Ensemble Unicorn. Another great album, same incredibly low price as always from the Naxos label, and the same top-notch skill I've come to expect from the Ensemble Unicorn.
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Format: Audio CD
Wow, what a stunning CD. Firstly I am just floored by the audiophile quality of the recorded sound - much, much better than a lot of CDs for three times the price. This is a characteristic of all of the Ensemble Unicorn recordings but this one is particularly good. As for the performances, they brim with life and color as interpretations of music of this period rarely do. They really bring this music to life, transporting the listener back centuries. The music represented here also has a good deal of depth to recommend it too.

This is just the sort of CD that reinforces the view that Naxos is above all a serious record label of high quality. This would be worth buying even if it cost three times the price.
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