Classical CD Reviews

“Music from the Court of Burgundy” = Ciaramella – Yarlung

Music of the Royal courts in Burgundy France.

Published on December 29, 2013

“Music from the Court of Burgundy” = Ciaramella – Yarlung

“Music from the Court of Burgundy” [TrackList follows] = Ciaramella – Yarlung Records 05785, 61:18 [9/27/11] [Distr. By Naxos] ****:

What the music really sounded like before the phonograph and wax cylinders we might not know but hasn’t stopped musicians from exploring what it could have been like.  There are many sources to look at and use as examples; many paintings, diagrams and books, but still no audio.  That adds a wonderful component to the early music groups: interpretation.  Each group is going to have their own take, ideas and execution of the music.  That fits perfectly with the performance practice of the day, where styles were very regional.  Many components of the early music were very flexible; instrumentation, dynamics, number of players, and tempo (to an extent).   We have a number of groups who have taken up this challenge and Ciaramella has released their new CD Music from the Court of Burgundy.

As the title implies this is a collection of courtly tunes from the Burgundy region of France.  This includes both music set for indoor and outdoor use; discernible by the instrumentation.  Shawms, sackbuts, and trumpets were generally not let indoors, where one would find recorders, lutes and voices.  Another instrument making an appearance is the bagpipes; not the Highland Great Pipes but their smaller Continental cousins, which are more suited for indoors.  Although the style of ornamentation being used is the same found in modern piping of the Scottish tradition.

The booklet is quite in-depth noting the slightly different tuning, with the A at 446Hz instead of the codified modern A at 440Hz.  Also the use of Just Intonation rather than Equal Temperament.  A description, history and even the production of each the instrument are discussed.  While based on existing instrument, diagrams, paintings and even a case, these instruments were created by modern artisans.

Another interesting aspect is the choice of music.  In particular are the repeated works, no less than three works presented at least three times each.  In any other situation this could be seen as lacking imagination or just being lazy, but not here; here it is genius.  Imitation and the use of preexisting tunes to create a new composition was a major trend during this time.  Indeed the composer’s skill in taking the base tune and working it into something fresh and new was expected.  So while one piece will be listed three times the presentation will be different each time.  “Fourtuna desperata” is first a purely vocal piece, next as a vocal solo with recorder ensemble.  Then a vocal ensemble with brass voices, then expanding to include the shawms and mixed voices.  Or “J’ay pris amours” while always using the recorder instrumentation, presents the tune in contrasting arraignments.

I have heard a number of early ensembles and one of the great things about all of them is always a very unique sound and interpretation of early music.  Ciaramella does not disappoint in this very well-performed, if sometimes a bit academic sounding, interpretation of these outwardly reserved courtly works.  The performers’ instrumental and vocal fluency is so nice to listen to.  A nod to the instrument makers is also needed; these instruments sound wonderful, and this type of music does not hide weak notes or intonation.  Also interesting is the use of a gold CD and the emphasis of using an analog mixer and short chords between the microphones and board.  Their goal is trying to keep as little distance between the group and the listener.  Again a very well-constructed and delivered album giving listeners a wonderful interpretation of early music.


Agricola, A:
Comme femme
Fortuna desperata
Cancon de’ pifari dicto El ferrarese I
Je suis d’Alemagne
A cheval, tout homme à cheval
Roti boully joyeulx
Cancon de’ pifari dicto El ferrarese II
La Spagna
De nachtigaal die zank een lied – La franchoise nouvelle
Comme femme desconfortée
Una Panthera
Doctorum principem
O Rosa bella
La Spagna a 5
Urbs beata
J’ay pris amours
Alarme, Alarme
J’ay pris amours
Plaisance, or tost

—Darren Robinson

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