This is one of a now
burgeoning series of ‘Music and Art’
discs from Naxos. They are proving not
only collectable and successful but
also illuminating for listeners young
and old alike.
This volume, based
around Tilman Riemenschneider, is unusual
because the artist in question was a
sculptor and lime-wood woodcarver. His
work is little known; at least in the
UK. Helpfully Naxos have placed illustrations
of his art throughout the booklet.
represents the apogee of Renaissance
German carving. I have to say immediately
that the art is mostly greater than
the music represented which includes
too many short instrumental arrangements
of tunes popular at the time in the
secular world. The exceptions are the
sacred works by Obrecht and Ockeghem
which end the disc. These, it seems
to me, represent Riemenschneider’s art
Much care has been
taken in the presentation of the booklet.
We have a complete and careful listing
of all the works followed by a lengthy
and detailed essay by Hugh Griffith.
This divides into several sections.
These are first, a general remark about
the place of Artists and the Guild system
in society at this time. Then comes
a section on Riemenschneider himself.
Next there is material on the composers
and their roles and finally some useful
composer biographies. The text is interspersed
with coloured photographs of Riemenschneider’s
work for example the beautiful ‘Sant
Afra’ wood carving which is still visibly
painted and gilded. There is also an
illustration of a famous Burgkmair woodcut
from ‘The Triumph of Maximilian’ (c.1515)
which shows shawm players and the organist
Paul Hofhaimer whose music is represented
on this disc. He, like Isacc, Finck
and others, were all at some point,
working at Maximilian’s lavish court.
At the back of the
booklet is a fascinating chronology
comparing the events in the sculptor’s
life with the main events in the lives
of contemporary painters and musicians.
Texts are given although, curiously,
not all of them. For example the booklet
omits the words for the last four tracks
sung by the Oxford Camerata.
Normally these discs
are compilations drawing on previous
Naxos issues but this one is slightly
different. I have already mentioned
that four sacred and beautifully poised
works are featured from a superb Oxford
Camerata Naxos recording. In addition
there are five tracks from a CPO disc.
These are performed by Harmut Hein and
the Hedos ensemble. I must just warn
the listener however that these ex-CPO
tracks are recorded at a higher volume.
The rest of the disc was especially
recorded by Il Curioso who play entirely
wind instruments. They are joined by
the under-used baritone Martine Hummel.
There is some delicious recorder playing
including on the opening track, ‘Mein
Herz in Reuden’. With its consecutive
fifths and syncopated rhythms it sounds
more like a track from a film score
- ‘Cadfael’ or something! There is also
some rather wondrous antediluvian crumhorn
noises on other tracks - possible too
many. Listen to the gloriously named
‘Katzenpfote’ (The Cat’s paw’).
The vocal items are
OK. I can’t get excited about either
singer but their voices are mostly suitable
to the songs, if rather dull. Try for
instance ‘Se hyn mein hercz’.
This is a CD I shall
carefully keep as much for its artwork
as for its music. Generally, despite
the reservations mentioned above, this
is as fine an introduction to the rather
eccentric world of German Renaissance
music as I know. Everyone associated
with its creation should be warmly applauded.
See also review
by Patrick Gary