The Musicians of the North was the name given to Dutch and Flemish musicians during the Renaissance. Their influence was great, all over Europe, and they spread to various countries, bringing with them their musical forms and styles.
The tone is set from the very first notes of this recording. This is a disc of music to entertain, of joyous, festive music. These are short Renaissance pieces that all have a merry tone; dances, songs, instrumental pieces, all exude the most jovial atmosphere. The variety of pieces, all written between the 15th and 16th centuries, shows just how varied festive music could be during this period.
Popular songs, such as Jean de Nivelles, by Jacques Mangeant, with its almost nursery-rhyme lyrics (Jean de Nivelles has three big cats / one catches mice, the other rats), is a fine example of the type of song that probably had peasants and nobles alike dancing at Renaissance fairs and markets. A. Van Kerkhoven's Fugue 125 for organ is a fine piece which shows how such joyous music could even be introduced into the church - since the only place large organs were found was in church. Its joyous subject weaves in and out of a happy rhythmic structure.
Gregorio Huwet's Fantasia for lute is slightly more introspective, and, at 4.40, the longest piece on this recording. It is a beautiful work which recalls some of Dowland's slower lute pieces. Emmanuel Andriaenssen's Bransle Double is a simple dance piece for several instruments, that begins with lute alone, then adds a recorder, and keeps on adding instruments as it progresses through each verse of the melody. In the end, this beautiful piece brings to mind a dance in the great hall of a Renaissance castle, as the fair ladies twirl and spin around in groups.
This beautiful disc is the perfect remedy to a grey, rainy day. Its overwhelming festive tone will liven up almost anyone. Tenor Stephan Van Dijk has a perfect voice for this repertoire, and the musicians are all excellent.