This disc is enormous fun, as well as being instructive.
It is a celebration of the dance, and the only niggle I might possibly
have is my own fault it is a bit much to listen all the way through
in one sitting. Each of the dances is only a couple of minutes long
indeed the longest is a huge 2:35, most of them being under 2 minutes.
Aural indigestion sets in after ten or so dances, and I would recommend
any listener who is not a period dance music fanatic, to restrict listening
to 15 minutes or so of these wonderful dances.
Czech musicians have always been first rate at dances
of this kind, remember the Czech Philharmonic in Dvořák
Slavonic Dances et al. In these performances by Musica Bohemica there
is the same lilt to the rhythms as in the earlier example. What we have
here however is a totally different sound, a result of the early instruments
being employed to recreate the atmosphere of the salon, pub or
open air where these dances were originally performed.
The booklet supplied with this issue is very informative,
telling how dance has been defined over the ages, and the problems we
humans have had in getting the dance form accepted. Defined earlier
by the poet Lamartine as "poetry of movement of the human body,
rhythm, and harmony between music and movement". In Czech terms
the dance was defined by the type of movement, and in the 17th
Century these approximated to ritual, calendar and family dances, guild
dances, dances related to various annual festivals and folk customs,
dance plays, competitive and imitative dances, social dances of the
noble, urban and rural environments, dances of the individual professions,
estates and social groups. You can see that there is a huge variation
in classification of the dance, and quite frankly, these jolly pieces
do not give up their source of provenance very easily.
A much more salutary factor is that no matter what
category the dance belonged to, both the Church and / or the civil authorities
did not like these activities, seeing them as pagan and causing the
participants to lose control and end up doing things that the po-faced
leaders of the Church and state did not approve of. Given their influence
over the general population, it is not hard to understand that this
subversive material remained hidden for ages, and has started to appear
as music historians start to uncover sources for this material.
As with many areas like this, the activities will out,
and here, on this disc we have sheer ebullience played with extreme
gusto for our enjoyment. Provided you play this a little at a time you
will get enormous enjoyment from this issue. All the dances are apparently
World premieres, the recording quality is superb, catching the artists
obviously enjoying themselves enormously, so if the repertoire attracts
you, there is no need to hesitate.