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Time of the Templars
CD 1 – Music for a Knight;

Estampie; Ensemble Unicorn; Oni Wytars Ensemble; Oxford Camerata/Jeremy Summerly; Manuela Schenale (soprano); Tonus Peregrinus; Carmen Cano (mezzo), Ensemble Accentus/Thomas Winner; Shirley Rumsey (lute)
CD 2 – Music of the Church (All anonymous Gregorian Chant)

Nuova Schola Gregoriana/Alberto Turco
CD 3 – Music of the Mediterranean

Ensemble Oni Wytars; Ensemble Unicorn; Tonus Peregrinus
Full track-listing at end of review
rec. various unspecified locations, unspecified dates. Compiled as set: 2007
NAXOS 8.503192 [3 CDs: 65:34 + 75:25 + 67:24]
Experience Classicsonline


In a sense, whatever I write about these CDs is pointless: with adulatory blogs already posted and at least one on-line retailer reporting out of stock at the time of writing, they will have sold like the proverbial hot cakes by the time you read this review.

In the main, that success will be justified – there are over three hours of enjoyment here – but I must begin with a word of warning: nothing on these three CDs is new, though the information to that effect is carried in very small, virtually illegible print on the backs of the individual discs and not on the outer box, where the only information given – ‘This compilation (P) and (C) 2007’ – is not very helpful, to say the least.

Naxos have already had one bite of the cherry in re-jigging extracts from earlier recordings on a 2-CD set, The World of Early Music, and several items from the first CD of that set are offered again here. For this new collection they contrive not to mention the recent hype and nonsense surrounding The Da Vinci Code and its offspring, but that is clearly the peg on which this collection hangs. This, too, is a peg which Naxos have employed before on another distillation from earlier recordings, Leonardo da Vinci: Music of his Time (8.558057 – see enthusiastic review by KS).

I do, in fact, own most of the parent recordings on which the Ensemble Unicorn and Ensemble Oni Wytars feature. Their approach is very different from that of the more scholarly but equally very enjoyable Gothic Voices recordings for Hyperion, several of which I have recently recommended in their reissued bargain-price Helios incarnations, and different again from the Martin Best Ensemble on a series of Nimbus recordings which I have also recommended. There is room for all of these and I certainly welcome back these Naxos performances.

The second CD is a straight reissue of Naxos 8.550771, Adorate Deum, Gregorian Chant from the Proper of the Mass. Those impulse purchasers who already own this CD will be justifiably cross to discover that they already own a third of the new set. Those who do not already have the parent CD, however, will find that they have purchased a fair cross-section of the chants performed at Mass – four settings each of the introits, graduals, alleluia verses and offertories and five of the communion verses for different Sundays of the year. The notes in the booklet specify the occasions but, unless you own a copy of the Latin Tridentine Missal, you will not have access to the all-important texts.

If you want to chase those texts, typing the headings given on the CD into Google or Yahoo will bring up the Latin text that you are looking for. Typing in ‘Adorate Deum’ for example, the title of the first track, will bring you an offer of the propers, in Latin and English, for the Third Sunday after Epiphany from - ignore the crass mistake in the heading, which says ‘after Pentecost’!

There are many theories about how plainchant was performed in earlier times. I’m not going to get bogged down in academic theorising: I’m happy simply to say that, although in theory such a jumble of texts from different seasons ought not to work, I thoroughly enjoyed what was on offer here – 75 minutes of great beauty, an ideal CD to relax to. If you want a more coherent account of plainchant texts with a common purpose, you may well prefer the new Universal release, Chant – Music for Paradise (The Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz, 176 6016). That new CD is in my in-tray: initial listening suggests that it is highly recommendable, but watch out for my full review. Chant is ‘in’ again; I note that EMI have just reissued their recording of the Monks of Silos.

Though of monastic origin, from a thirteenth-century manuscript from Benediktbeuren Abbey, the Carmina Burana offer a very different kind of music – sharper and often bibulous or bawdy – associated with the goliards or wandering scholars. These are the medieval originals from which Carl Orff derived his famous work – if anything, they are even livelier in their original form and they receive performances to match.

If you like the extracts from the Carmina Burana here, you may well be better served by going for the Naxos CD from which they are taken (8.554837). These are lively, rumbustious performances of lively music, very rightly recommended as Recording of the Month by KS – see review. How to perform the Carmina Burana is a somewhat inexact science; other, rather more scholarly views may be found on a recently reissued Telefunken Das Alte Werk 2-CD recording (Studio der frühen Musik/Thomas Binkley, Warner Classics: 2564 697659) or on a single-CD selection on the super-bargain Apex label (Boston Camerata/Joel Cohen, 2564 620842).

The same is true of the extracts from the Cantigas de Santa Maria – having heard them, you will probably wish to explore further, on the parent CD (8.553133), the Apex recording recommended by EM (2564 619242 – see review) or from the Nimbus recording which I recently reviewed (Martin Best Ensemble, NI5081 – see review). You could even buy all three without too much overlap.

The Naxos performances of both the Carmina Burana and the Cantigas are more declamatory than their rivals and this is true of all the pieces performed here by Ensemble Unicorn and Ensemble Oni Wytars, separately or together. The only CD featuring Oni Wytars which I did not already have is From Byzantium to Andalusia (8.557637 – see review by JW with its link to WK’s review); the performances from that programme are sufficiently persuasive to add the rest of that album to my wish-list. Most easily done by purchasing the remaining tracks as a download from emusic at 24p each for those who take the 50 tracks for 11.99 option.

The extracts from the Oxford Camerata’s recordings of Hildegard of Bingen will almost certainly whet your appetite for the parent CD (Heavenly Revelations, 8.550998) and their other Hildegard recording (Celestial Harmonies, 8.557983). Whilst these are not the last word on Hildegard, they will serve very well as an introduction to her. A word of warning – the music of this twelfth-century polymath and visionary is habit-forming; after the Summerly performances you will want to turn to the Gothic Voices (A Feather on the Breath of God, Hyperion CDA66039, also in a mid-price 3-CD set) and the numerous recordings by Sequentia on the DHM/BMG label.

The ensemble Estampie take their name from a medieval dance, an example of which they offer on track 17 of the first CD. Once again, you may well be better served by buying the parent CD, Under the Greenwood Tree (8.553442, also available to download from classicsonline). Their performances are recommendable, though I would have preferred a little more oomph in Kalenda Maya (CD1, track 11).

The short single item here from Shirley Rumsey should also lead the listener to pursue her Music of the Spanish Renaissance (8.550614, from which Guardame las vacas is taken) and other recordings. The other performers also acquit themselves well.

In such a varied programme there are bound to be a few typos. The first track of the third CD is billed as Bach, bene venies on the insert; in fact, it isn’t a welcome song for JS Bach or any of his musical family but an invitation to Bacchus: Bache, bene venies. The Naxos website, from which I have cut and pasted the details, corrects most of these. I have corrected other items from the original Naxos CDs; I apologise for any which I may have missed.

More serious is the lack of texts and translations, which some of the parent CDs – that of Carmina Burana, for example – provide. If less space had been given to the brief history of the Templars, easily obtained elsewhere, a more detailed account of the music, together with texts and translations, could and should have been offered. Those of the Carmina Burana can easily be found online by typing in their first words.

I seem to have spent most of this review writing about and recommending the parent CDs from which Time of the Templars is taken. My final recommendation, then, is to go for those originals. Good as the three Templar CDs are, they will inevitably whet your appetite for more. The third CD, for example, contains so many items from the On the Way to Bethlehem: Music of the Medieval Pilgrim (8.553132) that you may well find yourself better satisfied with the more coherent programme on that recording than with its scattered offspring here.

I haven’t got space here to list the other parent recordings, but they can easily be found on the Naxos website. While you are about it, you may well wish to consider the one Unicorn/Oni Wytars CD not excerpted here: Music of the Troubadours (8.554257), a viable cheaper alternative to the various Martin Best/Nimbus recordings which I have recently reviewed and recommended.

You could, of course, go for this 3-CD set and supplement what you have here by downloading extra tracks from the parent recordings from classicsonline (most tracks @ 79p or 4.99 for complete albums) but that would probably end by costing more than the parent CDs at the very reasonable Naxos prices.

Brian Wilson

Track Details
Time of the Templars

CD 1 Music for a Knight
Walther von der Vogelweide (fl.c.1200) Palastinalied(1) [3:07 ]
Richard I, Coeur de Lion (1157-1199) Ja nuls homs pris(1) [2:22 ]
Blondel de Nesle (fl.1180-1200) A l’entrant d’este que li tens s’agence(1) [4:07]
Alfonso X (El Sabio) (1221-1284) Cantiga No. 60, Entre Av’e Eva(3) (1270-1290) [2:19]
Anonymous Chominciamento di gioia: Saltarello No. 1(3) [2:35]
Carmina Burana: Clauso Cronos(3,4) (c.1230) [3:08]
Alfonso X (El Sabio) Cantiga No. 213, Quen serve Santa Maria(3) (1270-1290) [5:42]
Carmina Burana: Axe Phebus aureo [5:48]; Katerine collaudemus(3,4) [3:28 ]
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) O pastor animarum(2) [1:23]
Raimbaut de Vaqueiras (c.1150 or 1160-c.1207) Kalenda maya(1) [2 :24]
Ambrosian Chant : Kyrie eleison (6) [1 :37]
Perotin (late C12-early C13) Viderunt omnes: Notum fecit(5) [3:55]
Hildegard of Bingen Kyrie eleison(2) [4:27]
Anonymous Vetus abit littera (5) [2:23]
Hildegard of Bingen Alleluia, O virga mediatrix(2) [3:33]
Anonymous Estampie (1)[2:34]; Lamento di Tristano: La Rotta (3) [4:30]
Sephardic Songs: A la nana (7)
Guardame las vacas(8) [2:16]
CD 2 Music of the Church (9)
Introitus: Adorate Deum [4:02] ; Introitus: Da pacem [4:33] ; Introitus: Dominus illuminatio mea [5:45] ; Introitus: Laetetur cor [4:46]
Gradualia: Dirigatur [3:09]; Gradualia: Domine, Dominus noster [3:22]; Gradualia: Iacta cogitatum tuum [3:54]; Gradualia: Laetatus sum [3:14]
Versus Alleluiatici: Adorabo [2:17 ]; Versus Alleluiatici: De profundis [3:16]; Versus Alleluiatici: Deus, iudex iustus [2:51] ; Versus Alleluiatici: Laudate Deum [1:49]
Offertoria: De profundis [3:16]; Offertoria: Domine, convertere [2:17]; Offertoria: Iubilate Deo universa terra [7:45]; Offertoria: Iustitiae Domini [4:15]
Communiones: Circuibo [2:04]; Communiones: Dicit Dominus: Implete hydrias [3:51] ;
Communiones: Dominus firmamentum meum [2:23] ; Communiones: Qui manducat [2:17] ;
Communiones: Psalm 33, Gustate et videte [3:29]
CD3 Music of the Mediterranean
Carmina Burana: Bache, bene venies (3,4) [5:58]; Tempus transit gelidum (3,4) [5:07]; Tempus est iocundum (3,4) [5:58]
Traditional Dinaresade [13:50]; Nevestinko oro (4) [3:17]
Anonymous Sei willekommen Herre Christ (3) (c.1394) [4:38]
Traditional Kod Bethlehema (3,4) [1:43]; Koleda na Bozic (4) [1:02]; Dudul (3,4) [2:38]
Anonymous Kyrie eleison (Christian-Arabic Tradition, Lebanon) (4) [3:17]
De la crudel morte de Cristo (Laudario di Cortona - Ms. 91, Biblioteca Comunale di Cortona) (4) [1:59]
Yunus Emre (13th century) Sallâlâhu alâ Muhammed (4) [4 :41] ; Pesrev (4) [1:28]; Ey Derviçcsler (4) [4:57]
Traditional Keh Moshe (Traditional Jewish, 12th century) (4) [1:46]
Adam de la Halle (c.1245-1285 or later) Le jeu de Robin et de Marion (The Play of Robin and Marion) Mout me fu grief li departir / Robin m’aime / Portare (5) [01:26]
(1)Estampie/Graham Derrick; (2)Oxford Camerata/Jermy Summerly; (3)Unicorn Ensemble; (4)Oni Wytars Ensemble; (5)Tonus Peregrinus/Antony Pitts; (6)Manuela Schenale, soprano; In Dulci Jubilo/Alberto Turco; (7) Carmen Cano, mezzo-soprano; Accentus Ensemble/Thomas Wimmer; (8)Shirley Rumsey, lute; (9)Nova Schola Gregoriana/Alberto Turco



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