> Praetorius - Holborne - Demantius - Arbeau [GH]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621) Seven Dances from Terpsichore (1612) Anthony HOLBORNE (1547-1603) Dances from ‘Short Airs Both Grave and Light’ (1599)
Christoph DEMANTIUS (1567-1643) German and Polish Dances (1601)
Thoinot ARBEAU Dances from Orchesographie (1589)
Praetorius Consort directed by Christopher Ball
No other recording details given
REGIS RRC 1076 [77.09]


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According to the reverse of the CD box this recording was originally issued on a ‘Classics for Pleasure’ LP (no date given). There are 39 tracks on this CD compared with the mere 21 when issued on CFP. On a little piece of paper inserted into the booklet we are told that this amounts to an extra 20 minutes of music. "As a result the whole project is now from an entirely new master". The excellent booklet notes have likewise been re-edited by the director Christopher Ball and by Paul Arden-Taylor one of the wind players.

I don’t have the original LP so I cannot tell you exactly which pieces are newly available, I do however agree with the original press reviews that are quoted on the back of the case. Two of them read "foot-tapping and most appealing"; "Recording crisp and of demonstration quality". Indeed this disc is not only brilliantly recorded but fun for all the family as I can personally testify.

Finding it, in the stacks of a CD shop you might like to remember that the cover only advertises the Praetorius Dances. These in fact only make up a quarter of the playing time, the Holborne collection being almost as long. Yet Terpsichore does indeed stand out as the most memorable music on the disc. The rest, though, is fun and well played. I’ve often thought it curious that although Terpsichore contains around 300 tunes harmonized in 4, 5 or 6 parts without instrumentation suggestions, it tends to be the same pieces which are so often recorded. I listened again to a 1960 LP, the first time Terpsichore was committed to record, by Collegium Terpsichore (Archiv 14166) and was astonished to find almost the same collection of dances and with the same colourful and certainly inauthentic ‘orchestration’ which Christopher Ball also uses many years later. This even extends to glockenspiel notes on the first beat of the bar in the Courante and passages for flute and drum and passages for harpsichord alone. There is no harm in that I suppose, just surprising. I must say that if I were interested in simply having a CD of these pieces I would probably go for the Ensemble Musica Antiqua under Christian Mendoze (Pierre Verany 791041).

Eleven pieces are chosen by Holborne, Queen Elizabeth’s Gentleman Usher. If I just wanted a recording devoted to Anthony Holborne’s unwieldy title ‘Pavans, Galliards. Almans and other short both grave and light, in five parts for viols, violins or other musical wind instruments’ I would go for The Dowland Consort under Jakob Lindberg (Bis CD 469). It is interesting to make comparisons. The Dowland consort are strings only, the Praetorius Consort are a (very) mixed consort. Oddly enough a piece like the soberly named ‘The Night Watch’ works better, it seems to me, when played in a sprightly manner on recorders, than on viol consort by the Dowlands. ’It fell on a holy eve’ with its lovely melody, does not have much of an impact when played as a lute solo on this new disc but flows beautifully on viol consort.

Arbeau’s ‘Orchesographie’ is a book on dancing and takes the form of a colloquy between the teacher Arbeau and the pupil Capriole. The author quotes many dance melodies in all of the available forms of the time. Ball records nine different types. Some of these pieces will be familiar to anyone who knows Warlock’s six-movement ‘Capriol Suite’ for strings, Ball uses five of the melodies found in that work. Incidentally if you want a recording of the complete music from ‘Orchesographie’ it would be a good idea to look out the ‘New York Renaissance Band’ on Arabesque (Z6514).

The other collections on the CD have to my knowledge not been recorded before.

But the great joy of this new CD anyway is the fact that it is possible to compare Praetorius’s famous collection with four far less famous ones. Demantius is better known as a church music composer. His arrangements of untitled German and Polish Dances are sober but noble, and Lambranzi’s short tunes are put into three colourful little suites. Lambranzi was an Italian dancing master.

Highly recommended, with lively and colourful performances especially as it is at bargain price.

Gary Higginson

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