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La Muse Profane
Erasmus WIDMANN (1572–1634)
Musicalischer Tugendtspiegel (1613, Selection) [33:29]
Michael PRĘTORIUS (1571–1621)
Terpsichore Musarum (1612, Selection) [23:01]
Details after review
Accademia del Ricercare/Pietro Busca
rec. Chiesa di S Genesio Castagneto, Po, 1-2 August 2006.  DDD
CPO 7776082 [57:28]

Reviewed as lossless download from  Also available in mp3 and on CD from dealers.

With classic selections from Terpsichore available from

- New London Consort/Philip Pickett: the most complete collection available (Decca Oiseau-Lyre): review of ArkivMusic reissue (NB also available on 4759101)

- Parley of Instruments/Peter Holman (Hyperion, Archive Service or download only from Download Roundup December 2009.

- Apollo’s Fire/Jeanette Sorrell (Avie, a short selection in a collection of Christmas music – review)

- Prętorius Consort/Christopher Ball (Alto, super-budget price)  Review of earlier release (Regis)

- Early Music Consort/David Munrow (Erato Veritas, super-budget twofer)

- Parley of Instruments/David Hill (Hyperion Helios, another short selection in a Christmas collection – review)

- Ulsamer Collegium/Josef Ulsamer (DG Archiv, download only or Presto special CD, or 55-CD set)

any new offering needs to be very special.  In this case the extra appeal comes from the coupling: the only current recording of Widmann’s similar collection of dance music from the early seventeenth century with the cumbersome title of Musicalischer Tugendtspiegel ganz neuer Gesang…

I’ve been a huge fan of Terpsichore ever since I was won over by the David Munrow LP.  It now sounds shamelessly inauthentic but that’s part of the fun.  No crumhorns are listed among the instruments employed on CPO, though they are mentioned in the notes.  I’m a little biased in their favour: it was apparently the crumhorn hanging on Thurston Dart’s wall which attracted Munrow to early music.  That Munrow recording persuaded the parents’ association of the school where I was deputy head to buy a set of renaissance instruments, including crumhorns, for the music department, creating an ensemble of students who were invited to play in the foyer of the Festival Hall.  In any case, Prętorius suggests the use of crumhorns in some of his vocal works.

In fact Pietro Busca and his team steer a sensible midway course between the over-use of exotic instruments on the Munrow recording and Peter Holman’s decision, based on the fact that these dances were derived from renaissance French court music, to employ just a string band with lutes and theorbos.

Widman’s music is a little less unbuttoned, slightly more ‘Lutheran’ than that of Prętorius but with all the other available recordings of the latter I’m pleased that CPO have given him the lion’s share.  In fact, with slightly less than an hour overall, I could have wished for more.  The music adopts the form of both lively and dignified dances, each prefaced with the name of a woman.  I don’t wish to give too much of an impression of Widman as an uptight composer: he spent some time in Catholic Austria and seems to have been something of a naughty boy, proposing to three women almost simultaneously and decamping with the one whom he married in order to escape the furore.

With an ensemble of recorders, cornamuse – an instrument related to the crumhorn – gambas, theorbo, harpsichord and percussion, the ensemble give us a very enjoyable set of performances.  I’m only surprised that we had to wait ten years for it to appear.

In the more familiar Prętorius music, too, there’s no lack of committed and enjoyable playing, though I shall not be getting rid of either the Munrow or the Christopher Ball recording, the latter a wonderful bargain (ALC1076, with music from Arbeau’s Orchésographie and less well known music by Demantius, Holborne and the school of Lambranzi, around £5.50). 

The opening Courantes sound quite sedate by comparison with Munrow and Ball, but so does Philip Pickett, who is actually slightly slower still.  I must admit to finding Pickett sometimes a little too sedate but I wouldn’t wish to be without his recording, the most complete collection available at 50 minutes.  The Holman recording combines Prętorius’s settings of the dances with some of the French – and English – originals.

That sedate opening is something of an exception: the rest of the selection goes with a real swing, leaving me wishing not only that Pietro Busca and his team had given us more Widmann but that they had recorded a whole CD of each composer.  The Ballet des Bacchanales is suitably lively and the Ballet de Matelotz on the same track a match for Telemann’s rolling sailors in his Hamburg Ebb- und Flut, sometimes known as his Water Music.

The recording is bright and lively to match the music and the tri-lingual booklet is helpful and informative.  Some CPO booklets have received a good deal of stick from contributors to our Message Board in nominating the worst sets of notes, but this not one of them.  I could, however, have wished for more information on the provenance of each dance for the purpose of comparison with the Munrow and other recordings.

Overall I still recommend the Munrow twofer as first choice.  It offers 22 minutes of music from Terpsichore together with music by Susato – the recording used for the Ken Russell film The Devils – Morley, Mainerio and others, 2 CDs for around £9.50 (Erato Veritas 3500032).  Despite or because of his throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, it’s all hugely enjoyable.

There’s enough to be enjoyed from the Widmann selection, however, for me to recommend the new CPO recording as an adjunct to the Munrow.  You really should have both.

Brian Wilson

Erasmus WIDMANN (1572–1634)
Musicalischer Tugendtspiegel (1613, Selection) [33:29]
Intrada XXV (from Gantz neue Cantzon, Intraden, Balletten und Coranten, 1618) [1:25]
Helena – Foelicitas [4:37]
Magdalena – Sybilla [2:13]
Agatha [3:04]
Susanna – Dorothea – Maria [2:04]
Sophia Anna – Christina [3:52]
Margaretha – Johanna [2:39]
Barbara – Ursula [2:16]
Clara [3:43]
Regina [1:04]
Intrada XXVIIII (1618) [1:46]
Cantzon XII: Auff das gesang: Ein treues Hertz. etc. [2:18]
Cantzon V [2:28]
Michael PRĘTORIUS (1571–1621)
Terpsichore Musarum (1612, Selection) [23:01]
Courante I – Courante II [4:28]
Bransle de Villages (I–V) [4:00
Ballet – Ballet des Amazones [2:35]
Reprinse [2:08]
Ballet des Baccanales – Ballet des feus – Ballet des Matelotz [2:18]
Gavottes [3:13]
Bourrée I – Bourrée II [2:05]
Volte [2:14] 



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