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On the Way to Bethlehem: Music of Medieval Pilgrim CD

4.9 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Audio CD, CD, March 26, 1996
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Editorial Reviews

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

  • Audio CD (March 26, 1996)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Naxos
  • Run Time: 73 minutes
  • ASIN: B00000144X
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,639 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
If Ensemble Unicorn is great, Unicorn combined with the Middle-Eastern-inspired Ensemble Oni Wytars is even better! Actually, the two groups seem to share many of the same members, along with Ensemble Accentus (which focuses on Spanish and Sephardic music), but with different directors for each: Michael Posch for Unicorn, Marcos Ambrosini for Oni Wytars, and Thomas Wimmer for Accentus. This CD brings the musicians together to offer a stimulating combination of western and eastern-influenced music that might have been heard or played by medieval Pilgrims making the journey eastward. The European tunes focus on the Christmas season, while the Balkan and Near Eastern selections are traditional, handed down orally through the centuries and interpreted here with a zeal that should be as appealing to belly dancers as to early music enthusiasts (and I know many people who fall into both categories!). Instruments used include chalumeau, cheremia, cornemuse bechonnet, darbukka, davul, def, gayda, gittern, kaval, nyckelharpa, sackpipa, tamburello, tombak, vihuela d'arco, and a number of others that you actually might have heard of before--bagpipe, rebec, recorder, rebec, shawm, ud and the like. Ellen Santaniello also contributes vocals. I was surprised and delighted when I played this CD for the first time, and I continue to be each time I hear it again. If you like this recording, be sure to check out the other collaboration between Ensemble Unicorn and Ensemble Oni Wytars, "Music of the Troubadours", also from Naxos.
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Yes, fortunately, this record does not contain anything you'd recognise as depressing Xmas kitsch.

Instead, the record wishes to envisage a journey of mediæval pilgrims, beginning in Western Europe, and moving through the Balkans towards the Holy Land. As such, the disk contains a mixture of Western European, Balkan, and Islamic melodies.

The strength of Ensemble Unicorn and Oni Wytars is their ability to use early music as the basis for extended jam sessions. This recording is framed by two such jams, each more than twelve minutes in length, the opening -Dinaresade- and the closing -Mevlana-. Based on Middle Eastern themes, these are excellent performances, rich in atmosphere. Fans of contemporary groups who make use of similar material, from Loreena McKennitt to Dead can Dance, may find this record interesting, and well worth the Naxos price.

FWIW, Ensemble Unicorn and Oni Wytars also collaborate on the -Black Madonna- recording, another Naxos release I can highly recommend.
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By A Customer on June 7, 1999
Format: Audio CD
Great melodies, better instrumentation....INCREDIBLE MUSIC!!! I find western-europe music by ensemble Unicorn great, but the oriental part by Oni Wytars is simply amazing, both the balkanic and oriental songs. My only regret is that I loved the ensemble too much to bear the fact that no other record by them is anywhere to be found...
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Thus I begin with a direct quotation from the liner notes which I think is necessary for the future listener to ascertain what this is all about: "This recording offers a musical journey from England, the most western country and launching point of the first Crusade, through France, Germany, Eastern Europe, as far east as Syria. The musical selections from Europe are themactically Christmas Art songs; the selections from the Balkans and the Near East are traditional, meaning with the exception of the Sufi music, that it is popular music....This music was orally transmitted, slowly changing over generations, before it was recently written down, within the last few centuries. It is therefore not surprising to encounter different versions of the same piece of music. The instruments played on this recording correspond to those known to have been used between 1200 and 1500. It is interesting to note that many traditional instruments of the Orient, such as the oud, kaval, gaida, chalameau and various percussion instruments, remain virtually unchanged and continue to be used in traditional music today."

Of course this musical progression can be paralleled in the music of other countries, even our own USA with its history of Folk Music from various geographical areas of the country. The focal point of the Oni Wytars Ensemble are known for their work in enriching European musical culture by assisting the synthesis of the many traditions between East and West. Their contributions on this disc are outstanding . The ensemble Unicorn consist of five members who have specialized in the study of historical instruments, and they too present a tasteful performance of this music.
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This album captures the influences of all the places that a pilgrim from Europe might encounter on the way to the Holy Land (Israel). The first track (Dinaresade) opens with a very lively and catchy Syrian traditional tune. While this track has a very Arabic feel to it, the next song employs bagpipes in a traditional 14th century English tune.

The third track provides another lively woodwind tune with a Hellenistic mood. "Mari stanko" (traditional Bulgarian), the 5th track, is particularily interesting with long, slow female melodies that are interspersed with very rapid dance-like interludes. "Sei willekommen Herre Christ" provides a peaceful breather for the next track.

The next several tracks are short traditional Croation songs, ranging from chanting, chant-response, to renaissance-style dance music. The traditional Sufi track (Mevlana) makes a fitting close to the disc.

All in all, the middle-eastern influence is more prominent than the western-European influence (which may be why I like it so much). If you like early music, especially with the mystic sounds that Mediterranean music provides, then pick this disc up. (You can't beat the price either!)
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