Ensemble par exellence!
salymander | 05/03/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wow - this is beautiful! In bonus to the music itself are the program notes (John Stevens), which are purposefully educational and entertaining in their own right. Morris' soprano is appropriately soulful and pure. And it may be because I am a string player that I react so, but the vibrations of vielle and rebec are intoxicating - or is it the songs themselves? For heaven's sake, the opening song, 'En avril, au tens pascour', is the most exquisite love poetry/song I have ever heard, and it's around 700 years old! In true springtime fashion, it can reawaken so much of the beauty of love for us in an age when much of it is being lost. Remaining songs are balm for truly aching hearts - and some are not without a sense of comedy and theatricality - but all retain a certain dignity, which is consistent with the character of the genre in the age in which they were originally crafted. And 'gentil', spirited danses with amazing tapestry-like textures are all put together for us skillfully and generously in this exceptional collection of Latin, French, and Anglo-Norman medieval songs - original texts and modern translations are included. You, too, will be saying a genuine 'Bravo' to this highly artistically successful effort."
Superbly rendered early music
chefdevergue | Spokane, WA United States | 01/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ensemble Alcatraz' first album "Visions & Miracles," a very sparse, no-frills rendering of the Cantigas, is light years removed from the lush performance given on "Danse Royale." Not that this should be surprising; the Norman songs of courtly love are on a different wavelength entirely from that of the Cantigas, and the tight, spare performance of "Vision & Miracles" would serve only to do an injustice to the memory of the trouveres.This is a superbly rendered performance, especially in the arrangement of the selections. Every piece flows smoothly into the next, until one is left feeling as though the entire album is a single integrated piece. Music of this beauty almost makes one wish to have been alive 1000 years ago.After many years of collecting early music recordings, this remains one of my favorites. After the release of this album, I don't believe Ensemble Alcatraz released any recordings for nearly a decade, which truly is a shame. In 2000, they released (on the Dorian label) another collection of Iberian music, "Cantigas de Amigo," which raises the hopes that more albums will come from them in the future.However, if nothing else comes from this group, make sure you acquire "Danse Royale" and treasure it, for it is a rare gem."