A difficult one, impossible to give a single star rating. A marvellous nostalgia
trip for those of us who were in on the excitements of the early music movement
in the '60s & 70's. David Munrow was a marvellous virtuoso performer
on his huge collection of exotic instruments, and a communicator both on
radio (Pied Piper for children's radio - never talking down to them) and
in his programme planning. Never just a list of items, he devised cunningly
balanced sequences, varying the singers & instrumentation, with everyone
staying on the platform for seamless continuity, to make it a real party.
This was one such programme of the many memorable evenings in the Queen Elizabeth
Hall, before Munrow's untimely suicide, after which the torch was passed
on to more serious minded scholar-musicians.
Early music seems to be good for the vocal health, because most of these
singers, recorded in 1976, are still fully active on the scene, James Bowman
perhaps the most famous. Regrettably the instrumentalists are not listed,
though there was plenty of space to do so.
It covers mid-1100s to late-1300s, Perotin to de Machaut, monody to complex
three part motets. There are bells, shawm, mandora, psaltery, fiddle &
tabor and, to end, the braying of cornetts; a feast of contrasting timbres,
some of them possibly anachronistic.
It all sounds great, if no doubt dated according to later research, when
things became more austere. Excellent recording and CD transfers.
No notes at all provided on the individual items or composers however with
this Classikon re-issue from the Deutsche Grammophon back catalogue, which
is full of treasures.
Good value at the price certainly, and a happy hour's listening - you may
even find it refreshing for once not to have to cope with the usual historical
information? But, these being days of the information explosion, it would
be good if Deutsche Grammophon considered putting the text and pictures from
the original LP box onto their website, with biographical notes about David
Munrow for those too young to have seen & met him, and certainly to include
the members of the Early Music Consort, many of them still household names
twenty five years on.
Peter Grahame Woolf