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Winter - 15th Century Instrumental Music
Corina Marti (recorder, clavisimbalum, organetto)
Marie Nishiyama (harp)
Roger Helou (organetto)
rec. 2016, Beuggen, Germany
AYROS CD04 [61.42]

We have a tendency to overlook medieval and renaissance instrumental music on the grounds that some of us have been conditioned, almost, to believe that early music is really vocal, either secular performed in a hall or private gathering or sacred. This disc, as Mikhail Lopatin writes in his very revealing programme notes, is an attempt to redress the balance embarking on what he calls a ‘sonic adventure’.

For me, listening to this disc and writing this review in early March at a time when winter seems to have been with us for an inordinate amount of time and spring seems unable to establish itself, there was an even stronger meaning.

But why the title ‘Winter’. The group have taken the German song Der Winter will hin wichen’ as one might say, a bouncing off point of inspiration. Although played instrumentally, this, like many of the other pieces are songs transcribed for instruments often as virtuosic display pieces and variants of them. So the text of Der Winter reads ‘The winter must now get milder, it has been too long for me this year. Summer is coming in all its splendour; I am looking forward to it” – my feelings exactly!

The instruments chosen, as seen above, are all quiet and suitable for indoors or for private and personal use and entertainment. They are used extremely imaginatively by the just three musicians so that we almost never quite hear the same combination from track to track. Perhaps the most mysterious is the Clavisimbalum. I suppose that it is really a psaltery played with keys but its best to think of it as a fifteenth century harpsichord. Corina Marti has made quite a speciality of this instrument, which I can still recall hearing with considerable interest, or the first time only thirty years ago.

There are three sources from which these pieces are drawn from three countries, Germany, France and Italy all from the fifteenth century. The Buxheim Organ Book, the Lochamer Songbook and the Glogauer Partbooks. But don’t think that the Buxheim book is just keyboard music. In truth that may be its original function but the upper, of normally three parts, can of course be played on any treble instrument like a recorder and the lower lines on an organetto, harp or whatever is at hand. A publication of some twenty-five of these pieces can easily be obtained in a London Pro Music Edition. The complete manuscript consists of 256 pieces mixing up French chansons, German lied, Latin and Italian song settings, preambles on plainchants, dance music and mystery items of curious origin including examples of improvisation. The CD offers us performances which include an element of improvisation and this may also take the form of extra ornaments and elaborations added even to those in the manuscript, as in Dufay’s Se la Face ay pale or something a little more restrained in J’ay pris amours which forms part of the final track’s melange.

The Lochamer songbook collected various songs alongside their instrumental intabulations and the Zagan partbooks present each part or voice in a separate part book and these latter pieces especially “must be viewed with a wider Central European rather than a narrower German focus” (Lopatin).

Composers represented are the rather shadowy figure of Jacobus Viletti and then the great Dufay, Binchois and Busnois the leading composers throughout the fifteenth century.

Incidentally, the timings and track listing in the booklet and on the website are incorrect for several of the later pieces on the disc but a separate and correct list has also been supplied. The unfamiliar spellings are as found in the manuscripts and as given in the CD listing. The CD comes in the now quite common and compact cardboard casing with the booklet loosely inside.

Gary Higginson

All pieces are anonymous unless otherwise stated
Portigaler (after Dufay’s Or me vault bien Esperance mentir) [4.02]
Redeuntes In Idem mi de eadem mensura [2.30]
Ave Stella Matutina [1.35]
Jacobus VILETTI (c.1450) Ein buer gein holtze [1.29]
Se la phase pale (after Dufay) [2.54]
Redentes In fa [2.08]
Redentes In ut [1.08]
Magnificat Octani toni [2.34]
Sequuntur Redeuntes In Idem [1.39]
Antoine BUSNOIS (c.1430-1492) En soustenant vostre querelle [2.11]
Praeambulum super f [1.22]
Annavasanna (upon Une foys avant que morir) [2.29]
Der Winter will hin wichen [2.02]
Christus surrexit mala nostra texit [1.52]
Bohu svému krali nebeskému [1.29]
Ich sah ein bild in blauwer weyt [1.54]
Gross senen [3.16]
Antoine BUSNOIS: La vous sans aultre [2.24]
Verlangen tut mich krencken [1.19]
Ich sachs eyns mols den lichten morgensterne [2.03]
Adyen matres belle (after Binchois Adieu mes tres belles amours) [2.46]
Redeuntes In la [2.38]
Parleregart/Ad huc semel (after Dufay Par le regart de vos beaulx yeulx) [4.14]
Qui vult messite (after Binchois Qui veut mesdire)
Preambulum super sol/Without title (after J’ay pris amour)/Without title (after Kyrie Cunctipotens) [5.16]

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