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CD: MDT AmazonUK

Yo m’enamorí d’un aire - Medieval Songs and Dances
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 Cozollos, Olmos de Ojeda, Palencia, Spain
Sung texts included.
EMEC E-090 [73:57]

Experience Classicsonline

Reval’s Troubadours, a group of four young musicians pictured within the CD box, are new on the block. They were founded only in 2006 and are, according to the blurb, Estonian and based in Tallinn although this disc is distributed and was recorded in Spain. They “skilfully mix elements of jazz and rhythms from different countries” with ancient melodies including plainchant.

Their mission statement is immediately affirmed in track 1. It’s an improvisation using a vocalisation from Endrik Uksvarv and instruments such as the nyckelharpa - the national instrument of Sweden. Add to these a kannel - a traditional instrument from Estonia – and the usual recorders, lutes as well as exotica like the djembe and tarbuka which are African drums.

For track 2 they take a keyboard piece by the 15th Century German composer Conrad Paumann. This uses the melody ‘Mit ganzem erzen’ (With my whole heart) and improvise instrumentally around it. The booklet notes state that this is what was expected in the early medieval period and one can quite believe it. Indeed every track has a strong improvisatory element. As most of the pieces chosen are monophonic they allow plenty of room for manoeuvre.

The melody lines of ‘A la una yo naci’ and ‘Uri tsafon’ betray Sephardic hallmarks - the music of the Spanish Jews based in the South of Spain. It’s good also to hear the French 13th Century song ‘Prendes I garde’ in this robust and earthy rendition and without its usual counterpoints ‘S’on me regarde’ and ‘He mi enfant’.

Another improvisation is around a plainsong melody, ‘Hodie Christus natus est’ and, ‘Gaudeamus’. Each begins with an extemporising lute, ’Alleluia Laetatus sum’ with the nycelharpa (I think). In each a voice soon enters with the plainchant line. As a happy contrast in between these sober tracks we hear ‘Temp gwell eo gwimm’ which is a drinking song with elaborate instrumental additions. A few tracks later there is a very successful improvisation based around just two bass notes in a Tibetan style and one on a Basse Danse melody given the name ‘appelee’.

The ‘Cantigas di Santa Maria’ is an amazing collection gathered together and copied with superb illuminations of instruments. This has proved quite an inspiration to Reval’s Troubadours. It was in use in the mid-13th Century Court of Alfonso the Wise of Castile - a very violent man as I recently discovered whilst on holiday in the villages of that region. ‘Avrix mi galanica’, from the Cantigas, is magically performed.

Martin Codax was a Portuguese composer of the 13th century. His cycle of songs ‘Cantigas de amigo’ has been recorded often. ‘Ondas do mar de Vigo’ comes from those songs. The young woman alone on the shore sings “Waves of Vigo bay / have you seen my friend”? From the same period I especially enjoyed this rendition of the Italian processional song ‘Laude novella’. Its instrumental interludes use just a string instrument and a drum - the latter playing a major part in almost every track.

The singers are both passionate and expressive with wide dynamic contrasts and clear diction. The instrumental work is often virtuosic but always vital and appropriate to the song. It creates a real sense of energy and of atmosphere. It feels too like a live performance but there is little evidence of an audience.

But there is a down-side. The performers have been a little let down by the thin booklet which has the original texts but with no English or any translations. I cannot tell what most of the songs are about. An anonymous and mostly interesting essay attempts to encapsulate the overall thrust of the CD.

Gary Higginson

see also review by Glyn Pursglove






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