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Joseph Baldassarre - Luter: Music of Western Europe, 1200-1450
ANONYMOUS Saltarello (15th century) [2:42]
Guaçelm FAIDIT (c. 1160-1207) Chant e deport [1:31]
ANONYMOUS Je’ porte membremant (15th century) [1:04]
Jacopo DA BOLOGNA (fl. 1340-1360) Con lagrima begnando me [2:45]
ANONYMOUS Under der Linden (14th century) [3:33]; Estampie (15th century) [0:55]; Saltarello (15th century) [1:33]
Walther von der VOGELWEIDE (c. 1170-1230) Der Mai [2:00]
Colin MUSET c. 1200-1250) Quant je voy yver [3:00]
ANONYMOUS Estampie real (15th century) [2:51]
Raimbaut de VAQUIERAS (c. 1150-1206) Kalenda Maya [12:19]
ANONYMOUS Estampie real (15th century) [2:29]
FAIDIT Fort chausa [1:31]
ANONYMOUS John Barleycorn (15th century) [3:22]
Johannes CICONIA (1335?-1412) Non al suo amante [2:36]
ANONYMOUS She Moved through the Faire (15th century) [5:00]; Senti du l’amour (14th century) [0:51]; Munda Maria (15th century) [1:36]
Joseph Baldasarre (lute, citole, oud, symphonia, vielle, recorder, flute, soprano flute, douçaine, crumhorn, tar, riq, tambourine, doumbek, vocals)
Recording location and date not provided.
TOAD RECORDS TR0306 [63:46]

Joseph Baldassarre is a professor of music history and classical guitar at Boise State University.  He has a web site at
One’s familiarity with the lute generally begins with three composers of renaissance and baroque vintage: Bach, Weiss, and Dowland.  The lute had had a long history prior to that point, however; a history we get a taste of in this recording.  Actually, though the lute figures prominently on this album (and its title), given the variety of compositions and instruments employed, it might be better to think of this more generally as “troubadour music.”
Saltarello is a solo piece that begins with a simple melody that is then repeated with ornamentation and percussive effects.
Guaçelm Faidit was a troubadour, in service to French and English courts, and possibly a participant to the Third and Fourth Crusades.  The Chant e deport Baldassarre chooses to play without lyrics on the citole, a descendent of the lyre popular in the 13th and 14th centuries.
Je’ porte membrement brings together a number of instruments to create an easy-paced stomp or march.  Con lagrime bagnando me is a duet for two woodwinds (no lute), a recorder and a tenor flute.  Jacopo da Bologna was among the leading Italian court composers who shaped the music of the “trecento,” the fourteenth century.
The simple piece Under den Linden contains, according to the notes, improvisation by Baldassarre.  It attests to his faithfully to the style that I had difficulty telling where the original music ended and the improvisation began.
The Estampie and second Saltarello are two dances for several instruments.  Both are from the fifteenth century, the first from France and the second from Italy.  Besides lutes and flutes we find a riq, an Arabic form of tambourine, and in the Saltarello a doumbek, which is a type of drum, and a douçaine, an early double-reed instrument.  Der Mai is another two-woodwind piece, though the high-voiced recorder and the deeper, reedy douçaine are vastly dissimilar—and therefore effective—conversation partners.
Baldassarre sings in Quant je voy yver, in both Old French and modern English.  He has a slightly gruff, unstudied voice that suits this music perfectly.
After another estampie for multiple instruments (La quarte estampie real) we move to “the crux of the program,” Kalenda Maya by Raimbaut de Vauieras.  Baldassarre’s spoken introduction (which is a bit much for repeated listening—perhaps it should have been relegated to the written liner notes) tells Raimbaut’s story: a musician scorned by the higher-born woman he is wooing, and now she inspires him to make music again, the music we hear here.  The music combines insistent rhythmic pattern with a gentle melancholy accentuated by the Occitan language in which it is sung.
Another lively Estampie with sparser instrumentation is followed by a short “planh,” a troubadour funeral lament.  Played on the solo citole, this work by Gauçelm Faidit honors the death of Richard the Lion-Hearted.  John Barleycorn is another fine folk-vocal performance, accompanied by hand-drum, sung here in modern English.  Johannes Ciconia’s Non al suo amanta was a vocal duet, but is transcribed here for two lutes.  In this form it sounds like a fine short sonata.  In She Moved through the Faire, Baldassarre again accompanies his singing.  This time the symphonia accompanies a lover’s lament.  The combination of male voice and buzzy symphonia is less compelling, more taxing to the ear, than others on this disc.
Of the two short works that round out this disc, the last, Munda Maria, is a round for two douçaines with various instruments accompanying.
The liner notes could be more informative for newcomers to this music, particularly regarding the composers (when their identity is known) and the unfamiliar instruments.  Recording quality is high.  Most pieces involve Baldassarre recording multiple tracks to play the separate instruments, but they combine into well-integrated wholes.
Fans of early instrumental music should check this out.  It is not only an important introduction to a piece of music history, but fun to listen to as well.
Brian Burtt




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