Sumptuous Basse-Dance Music
Leslie Richford | Selsingen, Lower Saxony | 03/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"La Maurache: Dance at the Court of the Dukes of Burgundy. Arion ARN 68052.
Originally recorded and published between 1976 and 1982. This CD compilation 1988 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of Arbeau's L'Orchésographie (1588).
The Grand Duchy of Burgundy reached its zenith under Duke Charles the Bold in the middle section of the 15th century. Charles was the great rival of French king Louis XI (cp. Walter Scott's novel "Quentin Durward"). Part of the ducal glory was the musical prowess at court, with famous musicians (Binchois, Dufay) and sumptuous balls as well as sacred music. Unfortunately, the surviving sources of this blooming cultural epoch are sparse and scattered. Julien Skowron, director of La Maurache, has here put together a programme consisting mainly of "basse-dance" numbers taken both from Arbeau's Orchésographie and from various other sources such as the Glogauer Liederbuch, the Buxheimer Orgelbuch and various manuscripts. The sources not only allow but actually demand that musicians play them with a good deal of freedom, and Skowron has arranged the pieces chosen here for an enormous array of medieval and renaissance instruments (and occasionally also for voices), the result being comparable with some of the CDs produced by, for example, David Munrow for EMI and Decca. The individual pieces are performed in a very dance-like manner, so that even the non-expert will find his or her foot tapping along, perhaps despite the strange-sounding instruments. The vocals are done, as was generally the case 30 years ago with repertoire of this nature, with natural-sounding voices that occasionally slip into the bizarre (slightly nasal, intonation not always perfect). The analogue recording has been excellently transferred to CD and sounds very good indeed, even today. Unfortunately, the thin booklet in French and English does not give the texts of the sung material, nor is there any indication of where the recordings were made. But for anyone interested in late medieval dance, this CD (total time approx. 62 minutes) ought to be part of a basic collection. I know nothing quite like it elsewhere.
For the record, the musicians involved, with their instruments: Nicole Robin, vocals; Claudine Prunel, harpsichord; Hervé Barreau, recorders, bombard, chalumeau, krummhorn, cornemuse, vocals; Francisco Orozco, guitern, lute, percussion, vocals; Julien Skowron, rebec, fiddle, viols, vocals; Georges Guillard, organ, regal, harpsichord; Marcello Ardizzone, organ, harpsichord, fiddle, rebec, saz, citole, krummhorn, viol, percussion; Bernard Huneau, flute, recorder, krummhorn, bombard, percussion, vocals; Louis Longo, sackbut; Henri Agnel, lute, cittern, darbuka, nackers, crotales; Francoise Delalande, viols, percussion; Muriel Allin, bass viol."