Trouvère Songs; Russell Oberlin,
alto; S. Barab, viol. Experiences Anonymes
Gautier was associated
with the trouvères, who
were the northern counterparts of the
troubadours in southern France,
which districts were at that time culturally
and linguistically somewhat differentiated.
This work partially inspired Alfonso
X ‘El Sabio’s’ Cantigas de Santa
Maria which actually adopted some
of Gautier’s language, paraphrased and,
of course, translated into old Spanish.
A reviewer recently
complained that an "Anonymous 4"
release of music from this period was
monotonous, the same voices, the same
texture, and the same sound over and
over again. Much the same can be said
for Russell Oberlin and Seymour Barab’s
pioneering recording of some of these
songs; just the voice—certainly a superb
voice, a beautiful voice, which one
wants to listen to for hours—and accompaniment,
and little textural variety.
That complaint cannot
be levelled against this recording.
The name of the ensemble is misleading;
they do not play only harps, but every
medieval instrument you ever heard of,
and with exceptional verve and virtuosity.
The variety of vocal and instrumental
textures and rhythms is endlessly fascinating,
although there is a unity of motifs
and effects within each of the five
collections. And these people sing with
genuine and infectious delight; unlike
one well-known group I’m too polite
to name, they don’t confuse enthusiasm
with over-acting. Some of the tunes
may sound familiar to you from the Play
"In modern times
instrumentalists have reconstructed
from medieval sources a sophisticated
array of improvisation techniques,"
says Mr. Lawrence-King in his notes,
and the generous utilisation of these
techniques make this recording unique
and valuable. Perhaps Ian Harrison’s
shawm figurations on Amours dont
suis epris is worth the whole price
of the disk! He really sounds like a
European musician who took lessons from
an Arab player, and at moments there
is just a suggestion of a Berber oasis
encampment. And his long sweet cornetto
solo on "Douce Dame" conjures
up echoes of Quiet City or perhaps
Rhapsody in Blue. This disk would
be an excellent gift to your audiophile
friends who think that all classical
music is dull and depressing.