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CD: MDT AmazonUK

Yo m’enamorí d’un aire
Improvisation [7:35]
Mit ganzem herzen [2:46]
Yo me enamore de un aire [4:23]
Prendes i garde [1:55]
A la una yo naci [5:10]
Hodie christus natus est [1:55]
Temp gwell eo gwinn [3:16]
Alleluia laetatus sum [2:56]
Avrix mi galanica [2:57]
Por nos de dulta tirar [8:57]
Uri tsafon [4:24]
Ondas do mar de vigo [3:16]
Improvisation Tibet [4:29]
Virgo dei genetrix [3:24]
Domna pos vos [3:01]
Gaudeamus [3:28]
Basse danse appelee [2:46]
Laude novella [3:09]
A ni tsa me [2:49]
Reval’s Troubadours: Anna Lüssa Heller (percussion, recorder, kannel), Janno Pokk (nyckelharpa, voice, percussion), Maarja Uus (recorder, lute, percussion), Endrik Üskvärv (voice, percussion)
rec. 7-8 August 2010, Santa Eufemia de ozollos, Olmos de Ojeda, Palencia, Spain
Sung texts included.
EMEC E-090 [73:57]

Experience Classicsonline

Reval’s Troubadours are an early music ensemble founded in the Estonian capital of Tallinn in 2006. Their name – a Baltic friend tells me – comes from ‘Reval’ the medieval German name for the city. Their performances incorporate the kannel, a traditional Estonian instrument of the zither family, and also the nyckelharpa, a traditional Swedish instrument, a kind of keyed fiddle most often heard in folk music. The two instruments contribute a distinctive tone to some of the performances on this disc. Yet, the disc as a whole, is somewhat disappointing.

In large part this is a matter of both repertoire and documentation, and the two problems are interrelated. The material played here is extraordinarily diverse, being ‘sampled’, as it were, from several centuries and countries. Only the very general subtitle of ‘Medieval Songs and Dances’ attempts to claim any sort of coherence for the programme. Even then, the inclusion of, for example, ‘Virgo Dei genetrix’ and ‘Gaudeamus’ takes us well beyond the parameters of song and dance. The result is a rather scrappy miscellany. And the effect is not helped by the inadequate documentation. The sung texts are included, but no translations of any sort are provided – so that any listener unfamiliar with the material should ideally have considerable linguistic abilities. There is no commentary or elucidation of individual items; indeed the two-page essay included in the booklet doesn’t mention a single one of the works recorded. Instead we are told that the “disc features a selection of instrumental works and songs with instrumental accompaniment which can be generally classified in different ways. On the one hand we have works of religious nature that belong to the Gregorian rite, canticles of the court of Alfonso X the Wise, secular songs of Sephardic origin, and traditional or anonymous medieval European songs”. Indeed we do, but it would have been a good (essential?) idea to have helped the newcomer to medieval music - and it is surely to such a beginner that a disc like this is most likely to appeal - with some guidance as to which ‘category’ each piece belongs – it isn’t intrinsically obvious in several cases.

The listener more familiar with medieval music is likely to know that ‘Yo m’enamorí d’un aire’ is a Sephardic song, but all but the real specialist will probably be unable to follow the text of this lovely song unless fortunate enough to have another recording on a CD where there is a translation; or perhaps the listener will know enough to be aware that ‘Ondas do mare de vigo’ is a song by the Galician troubadour Martín Codax, who is mentioned in the booklet’s general essay but without any indication as to where on the CD an example of his work is to be found; the same essay makes several mentions of the Cantigas of Alfonso X but does nothing to make it clear that ‘Por nos de dulta tirar’ comes from that collection.

Amongst the genuine - if unidentified - medieval materials are two tracks designated as ‘improvisations’; the second of them entitled ‘Improvisation Tibet’(!). The booklet mentions these only in passing, in a fashion to which I am unable to attach any very precise meaning: “The works of a purely instrumental nature included here are improvisations in the purest medieval style, recalling an inspiration that embodies and defines Western European musical history”.

Actually, the performances by Reval’s Troubadours are perfectly decent, if unremarkable. It has to be said that of those items likely to be familiar to those with an interest in the music of this period better recorded performances exist elsewhere. Unfortunately, there is a relatively tame sameness to much of the playing and singing here. Yet the musicians who make up this group clearly have some abilities, and it is to be hoped that in future projects they will focus their efforts more narrowly on a specific kind of material, so that any resulting CD will have far greater coherence – and that any such CD will be issued with genuinely helpful annotation.

Glyn Pursglove

































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