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From Byzantium to Andalusia - Medieval Poems and Songs
Christian-Arabic Tradition, Lebanon
Kyrie eleison  [3:21]
Laudario di Cortona (Ms. 91, Biblioteca Comunale di Cortona), Italy, 13th century Fa mi cantar l’amor di la beata (Let me sing the love of the blessed one) [6:47]
De la crudel morte de Cristo (Of the cruel death of Christ) [1:59]
Laude novella [3:49]
Yunus Embre (Bahileri), Turkey, 13th century
Sallalahu ala Muhammed [4:42]
Pesrev [1:29]
Ey Dervisler [4:59]
Laudario di Cortona
Plangiamo quell crudel [4:07]
Venite a laudare (Come and Praise) [2:40]
Traditional Jewish, 12th century
Keh Moshe [1:44]
Traditional Sephardic, pre-1492
Adon Haselihot [3:21]
Galeas, mis galeas [3:48]
Traditional Andalusian School
Jalla man [4:07]
Llibre Vermell de Montserrat, Catalonia, 14th century
Stella spendens in monte (Star shining on the mountain) [8:23]
Laudario di Cortona
O Maria, d’omelia [5:00]
Oni Wytars Ensemble
Belinda Sykes (voice); Jeremy Avis (voice); Peter Rabanser (voice, ud, bagpipe, duduk);
Marco Ambrosini (fiddle, keyed fiddle, rebec, Jew’s harp); Thomas Wimmer (fiddle, lute, rebec); Michael Posch (recorder, reed-flute); Riccardo Delfino (harp, hurdy-gurdy);
Katharina Dustmann (bender, darabuka, zarp, riqq, davul); Peter Rabanser and Belinda Sykes (musical direction)
rec. GroßeSendesaal, Hessischer Rundfunk, Frankfurt, Germany, 14-16 December 2001. DDD
NAXOS 8.557637 [60:25]



The music of the Mediterranean is among the most multinational of any region. This may have been even truer in the medieval period when Christian, Islamic and Jewish cultures all met for trade. Inevitably the cross-pollination extended into the realm of music, liturgical and secular; choral and instrumental. The resulting sounds are amazingly resonant, especially coming down to us from ages so far removed.

The album consists of selections of music from all three major religious groups of the period, though due to the performances it would be difficult to determine which tradition each individual piece is following. The goal is probably to show the commonality through musical traditions. At best this goal is accomplished. At worst, there is a lack of scholarship as to appropriate instrumentation for each individual song. “Laude novella” in particular is an Italian song that sounds as if it is from Syria.

On the other hand, the Islamic tracks are magnificent. It can be difficult to find early music from the Islamic traditions, and here we find three works from Turkey and one from southern Spain during Muslim rule. These selections are particularly engaging, and seem to have been the pieces that the musicians latched onto as their particular favorites. 

The recording quality is excellent. There is applause provided by an audience, but otherwise this would seem to be a studio recording. Each instrument is individually well recorded, and the mix is beautifully done. The performances display remarkable consistency and musicality.

The program notes are well researched and provide both a complete text for the listener and suitable background notes explaining the cross-pollination of musical traditions. In fact, they do a fairly commendable job of convincing the listener that all the music should be heavily tinged with the Islamic influences that it here displays. Given that instrumental accompaniments during the medieval period were all improvised, it is at least a valid viewpoint.

The only complaint about the selections would be that they are a bit unfocused. The fifteen tracks consist of music that spans three centuries from areas as diverse as southern Spain, Italy and Lebanon. Were either the time period or geographical region more tightly encapsulated this might be a perfect album for the music historian. For the casual fan of early music, this can still be highly recommended.

Patrick Gary

see also review by William Kreindler




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