Early Music/Frederick Renz director – Fonè 016 Multichannel SACD, 70:33
The Play of Daniel (Ludus Danielis) is a medieval work, part of a
Christmas cycle of liturgical dramas presenting the story of Daniel:
his interpretation of :the writing on the wall”, his elevation to
Belshazar’s advisor, and the attempt of jealous court members to
destroy him. It was written by members of the Episcopal School of
Beauvais, c. 1140. The Play of Daniel is not new to recordings. The
first recording (as far as I know) was of Noah Greenberg conducting the
New York Pro Musica in 1958 (Decca DL 7 9402). It was available on a
now-deleted two-CD MCA set, with The Play of Herod.
I tried without success to find the Greenberg recording for comparison,
not only for performance style and quality, but to learn why the Renz
recording is 30 minutes longer, and (I hoped) to resolve the issue
raised by the following comment in the liner notes: “The music of the
Ludus Danielis was transcribed and furnished with suitable rhythmic
patterns by Frederick Renz. He also added the instrumentation as
suggested by the melody and by his knowledge of how medieval music was
performed, transforming the Ludus Danielis into a living and colorful
reality after seven centuries of oblivion.” So we’re to believe that
this is the first recording of the work, and we have Mr. Renz, director
of New York’s Ensemble for Early Music, to thank for it? I’m sure Mr.
Greenberg, were he alive, would vigorously disagree.
I’m not an expert on medieval musical practice, but this performance
sounds authentic at least in the way I’m accustomed to hearing medieval
music. The recording makes full use of surround sound, with the
performers positioned to the sides as well as the front. There’s plenty
of motion, both laterally and front/back (though most of the latter is
produced by changing gain, rather than moving the performers toward or
away from the mic).
Although this is a legitimate surround recording, it is labeled as
having been recorded in November, 1986, using mic preamps, cabling, and
digital recorders that did not exist at that time. This is clearly an
error. Highly recommended, both for performance and sound.
– William Sommerwerck