ALLA DOLCE OMBRA: Poetic Music of the Renaissance from Italy and Austria • Paul Leenhouts, cond; Royal Wind Music • LINDORO 712 (57:01)
Selections by SCHEIN, MAINERIO, TERZI, GARDANE, SCHMELZER, DI LASSO, DE RORE, PALESTRINA, DE BARBERIIS, CAVAZZONI, MARENZIO, BERTALI, SENFL, ANONYMOUS, H. NEWSIEDLER, M. NEWSIEDLER, HASSLER, BRADE, PRAETORIUS
This is the debut album of the Royal Wind Music, a Dutch recorder ensemble. Presumably, they ended up on a SpanishRead more label, Lindoro, because the latter has inexpensive production facilities and specializes in early music. Fourteen recorder players would appear to be in the group, despite references in the liner notes to “a double octet of Renaissance recorders,” and on their Web site to “a double sextet of Renaissance recorders.” These are supplemented with four plucked instruments—double harp, triple harp, psaltery, lute—which furnish very occasional accompaniment (Bertali’s Sonatella), perform works that feature this ensemble-within-the-ensemble alone (Mainerio’s Ballo milanese, Terzi’s Ballo polacco, etc), and solo lute (Barberiis’s Madonna qual certerzza, etc).
Although the strings aren’t members of the core group, they perform a useful auditory contrast to everything else. That’s because when you come right down to it, recorder ensembles possess the same limitations of variety in texture as other unbroken consorts. Large recorder ensembles are still more circumscribed, as differences between individually designed instruments give way to the more uniform sound of specific choirs. RWM tries for some variety, notably so in Cavazzoni’s Canzon sopra Falte d’Argens, here performed exclusively on bass recorders. (It works, not surprisingly producing at times a register reminiscent of several North German Baroque organs.)
The album is enjoyable. Leenhouts and his musicians cleverly chose a program that moved through numerous styles, including arrangements of madrigals, dances, motets, and monodic songs. Pieces that emphasize slowly shifting chords and others that feature swift-moving counterpoint are heard side-by-side. There are also two mini-groupings of selections in this concert: a small suite of four pieces by the invariably inspired Schein, for the RWM, and lute arrangements by four different composers of the tune, Mein Vleis und Müe. Performances are well paced, varied in tempo, and extremely well played.
The engineering is first-rate, too. Lindoro has successfully managed to mike a number of different problematic instrumental groupings without the sound becoming murky or unbalanced. Instead, it remains clear and with just enough resonance to bring out the recorder’s curiously rich harmonics. Leenhouts’s liner notes end up largely caught in the trap of trying to spend a couple of sentences on each of 19 composers, though.