Fabulous performances, but this is NOT just violin music!!
Maddy Evil | London, UK | 06/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Praetorius's famous collection of dances entitled 'Terpsichore' (1612) surely needs no introduction - indeed recordings of it are available in abundance. What undoubtedly sets this one apart from previous readings is that this is the first to use predominantly stringed instruments: violin band, violin consort, lutes (only track 23 departs from this norm, where bagpipes and pipe & tabor are added to the violin band to bring out the rustic element of the title - 'Bransle de villages'). This excellent recording can be recommended without hesitation. The playing is generally superb, and includes some of the best available performances of some of the more famous dances (e.g. tracks 13 and 31). The lute intabulation arrangements also work well (most obviously in track 32) creating a distinctly French sound-world rarely exploited on previous 'Terpsichore' renditions. Praetorius's dances are complemented with some attractive contemporary lute works by Nicolas Vallet and Jean-Baptiste Besard, amongst which listeners will probably recognize the 'Bransles de villages' (track 22) from Respighi's 'Ancient Airs and Dances' suite.
However, is it fair to argue (as Holman does, liner notes p.7) that 'the collection was primarily intended for violins'...? Evidence to support this hypothesis comes primarily from Praetorius's preface, which indicates that the dances were composed by French dancers known chiefly as good violinists or lutenists (in particular Pierre Francisque Caroubel, who contributed many of the dances and had recently spent some time at the Wolfenbuttel court, where Terpsichore was published). Yet Praetorius's preface also refers to 'bowed and wind instruments' when describing 'loud and soft' repetitions within a dance, and also explicitly notes the suitability of adapting the dances for domestic ensemble ('...oder fur furstliche Tafeln / oder nur "in convivius" enzig zum Vergnugen...'). Given that Praetorius was in fact German (NOT French!) and that Terpsichore was published in Germany rather than for a French market in France, it is impossible to isolate his comments on this topic from similar collections published in Germany which testify to the continued popularity of the viol consort there. William Brade's collections of near identical music (of Paduanas, Galliards, Ballets,...etc) from Hamburg, 1614 and 1617, for example, indicate that they can be 'pleasingly executed on all kinds of instruments' and 'particularly on viols' ('...auf allen musicalischen Instrumenten und insonderheit auff Fiolen lieblich zu gebrauchen...').
In addition, it is equally illogical to suggest that the 'Passameze pour les cornetz' [CCLXXXVIII a 6, F.C.] - the only dance in Terpsichore with a specified instrumentation - represents the exception rather than the rule, i.e. only one dance out of 312 not intended for violin band/consort. Both contemporary accounts and other French music collections of the period confirm that the repertory of the French violinists was not as separate as Holman implies (liner notes p.7). The 'Recueil de plusieurs airs par Andre Danican Philidor' [B.N. de France, Res. F. 494] - again of music near identical to Terpsichore in style/form - includes numerous contemporaneous pieces which are given the addendum 'joue par les Grands hautbois' or 'fait pour les Cornetz ' alongside (for example) a suite of music for a 'Concert donne a Louis 13 en 1627 par les vin[g]t quatres viollons et les 12 Grand Hautbois.' Let us not forget that the 'Passameze pour les cornetz' in Terpsichore was in fact written by one of the French violinists (Caroubel)!!!!!!!!
In short, this CD presents one very plausible way in which these dances from Terpsichore were played, and the performances can definitely be recommended - just so long as the justification behind excluding any other instruments (viols or wind instruments) is accepted with a degree of caution!"
Praetorius without his crumhorn
Gary J. Wright | San Francisco, CA United States | 06/13/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you've been put off Praetorius in the past by the liberal use of flatulent period wind instruments and harsh percussion, you might try this fine recording. Strings, bowed and plucked, take the spotlight here and the result is very pleasing. Hyperion can always be relied upon to provide nice sonics and the performers are in excellent form. Some might prefer more demonstrative playing, but the slightly laid-back approach here is highly enjoyable and sounds totally valid."