A buried treasure! Glorious Medieval/early Renaissance music
Vorthog | Ontario, Canada | 02/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can't remember just how it was I stumbled across this hidden gem, but finding this wonderful album is the perfect illustration of why I love spending time on Amazon.com just idly surfing and browsing around. Once in a while, while cruising along you come across something amazing which you were unable to find when searching for it directly, but yet you happen upon it at the least expected time when you're not really looking for it.
In this case, I had always wanted an album of Medieval European music, but had never been able to find one which sounded "authentic" enough to my ears. Most albums devoted to such "early" music usually seem overly influenced by the subsequent highly orchestrated and formal Classical music style.
I am definitely not a fan of "Classical" music (which is where Amazon has hidden this album away), but am more interested in world music and traditional folk music. While other parts of the world seem much more in touch with their own musical roots, the "Classical music" era of the past 350 years or so in Europe seems to have completely severed Western Europeans from their earlier musical roots.
Thus it was with great excitement that I listened to the sound clips from this album and realized that it seemed I had finally found what I had been looking for. As this album is an import from Sweden, it took a little while for Amazon to get, but let me say it was WELL worth the wait and I was not disappointed!
The Joculatores Upsalienses ("Upsala Jesters") are a group from Upsala, Sweden founded in 1965 to bring to life the music of the past. This recording which boasts a whopping 28 tracks includes early music from England, France, Germany, Italy and Belgium ranging from the 12th century to the early 1500s.
This album does not sound like it was done in a studio, but is rather a recording of a live concert. True, some of the male singing is at times a bit shrill (tracks 7, 10) and does conjure images of Monty Python's Eric Idle doing the singing, but overall I would say I enjoyed this album very, very much. One can tell that it was with great love and devotion to authenticity that this recording was produced.
To aid in our appreciation of the music, this CD also comes with an informative 32-page booklet (yes, in English). The first 20 pages or so are devoted to explaining the origin and background of each of the pieces played, while the remainder explains each of the unusual and unfamiliar instruments used, and comes complete with an illustration of each. To a complete newcomer to this field like me, this was VERY helpful!
So have a listen to the sound clips and see if you don't agree it is a medieval treat (my fave is track 2). Whether it's background music for your next Renaissance Fair or medieval feast, or whether you'd just like to soak up the ambience of the king's court while doing some idle contemplation, this album is just what the varlet ordered.
The Joculatores are supposed to have 2 other albums available so I intend to definitely track them down too. So what ho, fellow traveller and enjoy!"
Earthy medieval sound on ancient instruments
Leslie Richford | Selsingen, Lower Saxony | 08/13/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Another Amazon enthusiast has written a great review of this disc, so I will just add that the recording was one of the first to be made by BIS in the early 70s, which would perhaps explain why the sound is sometimes not as present or as clear as would have been the case on a newer recording. Also, one must bear in mind that the Joculatores is or was a group of "amateurs" with only one professional musician among them; that is perhaps why the voices sound so "shrill" (male falsettos and highly nasal females). Tracks 13 through 15 were recorded nearly ten years later and the superior sound bears out what I said before. This is definitely an album for people who love the earthy sound of medieval drinking songs accompanied on weird-sounding ancient instruments. One big advantage here is the excellent documentation in the course of which all the tunes are briefly described, the texts of most of the songs are printed in full and the entire gamut of instruments is both described and illustrated by drawings both new and taken from Michael Praetorius's sixteenth-century standard works. It is really great that the Swedish recording company BIS keeps all its old CDs available, and this one is definitely worth having - assuming it is originality and earthiness you are after rather than aesthetic pleasure."