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Birds On Fire - Jewish Music For Viols / Fretwork


Release Date: 05/13/2008 
Label:  Harmonia Mundi   Catalog #: 907478   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Salomone RossiAnonymousThomas LupoAugustine Bassano,   ... 
Performer:  Jeremy Avis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 15 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



Some delightfully offbeat music allows the viol consort to stretch their wings

The title of this recording is a quotation from Aaron Appelfeld’s 1939 novel Badenheim. The subtitle, “Jewish Music for Viols”, more accurately describes the contents: Fretwork have also recorded consort music by some of the Jewish composers at the Tudor court – the Bassanos and Lupos – along with two contemporaries in Holland, Philip van Wilder and Leonara Duarte, illustrating the extent to which they set aside the declamatory music of their forefathers in favour of the imitative polyphonic style prevailing in Northern Europe. Even the Venetian “Ebreo” Salamone Rossi borrowed
Read more from the Latin motet for his 1622 Songs of Solomon, stilo antico settings with Hebrew texts sung here by Jeremy Avis.

If you’re seeking the exotic, listen to tracks 1, 13 and 24. Orlando Gough, best known for his theatre music, composed Birds on Fire in 1997. This is demanding, wonderfully offbeat music inspired by Ashkenazi Klezmers (more cabaret than camera), which Fretwork brings off with a panache that astonishes and delights. Importantly, it demonstrates the extent to which the viol consort has been circumscribed by its historic – largely amateur – repertoire and suggests that it is capable of far more. Each of the three Gough pieces begins with eerie sounds and is characterised by a kaleidoscope of syncopated ostinati, droll pizzicato asides and sinewy, modal themes conveyed in parallel octaves. You’ll swear you can hear an organ, accordion, clarinet and a saxophone, but you don’t. Fascinating, liberating music!

-- Julie Anne Sadie, Gramophone [9/2008]


With subtitles such as "Jewish music for viols" and "Jewish musicians at the Tudor court", this new disc from acclaimed viol ensemble Fretwork is bound to pique the interest of listeners who enjoy Tudor-period instrumental music; the idea of Henry VIII and others at the Tudor court bringing Jewish musicians and instrument makers to England from Italy is certainly worth exploring. It turns out that the "Jewishness" of these composers, players, and craftsmen, who had names such as Lupo, Bassano, and Kellim, was not necessarily obvious (Jews had been officially banished from England in 1290 and weren't allowed openly to return until the mid-17th century), and although much of the evidence today for identifying certain individuals and families in the Tudor and Stuart courts as Jewish is "circumstantial", it is nevertheless compelling and convincing, and it's to the credit of Fretwork that they chose to bring this previously lost bit of 16th-century music history into the light (owing largely to the earlier work of scholar Roger Prior).

Of course, the fact that there were Jewish musicians living and working in Tudor England does not mean that they wrote or performed "Jewish" music. The viol consort works we hear on this program reside in the traditional stylistic world of Fantasias, Pavans, and Galliards familiar from other more famous English composers of the period. These sets of pieces--primarily by Thomas Lupo and Augustine and Hieronymus Bassano--show the same sophistication, artful refinement, and aural appeal of the finest works in the genre while for the most part eschewing overt virtuosity.

The disc's title work actually is a recent composition by British composer Orlando Gough. It appears in three sections, each placed at a different point in the program. According to the composer its inspiration came both from a novel (Badenheim 1939, by Aaron Appelfeld) and from two klezmer tunes. I have to say I'm not wild about the interjection of modern works into a program such as this unless there's a discernible, complementary connection between the old and the new. Other than Gough's use of viols it's pretty hard to find such a connection here. While the music is certainly interesting and engaging and worth hearing, it's so different in concept and style--it ranges from jazz (Brubeck's "Take Five"?) and klezmer to tango and swaths of Reich/Adams/Riley minimalism--that the context simply works against it. Even the Jewish music connection--the two klezmer tunes--is questionable because the early viol works have no corresponding associations. Those listeners with differently tuned ears or differently configured experience or expectations will, of course, disagree with me on this.

But no one will disagree regarding the excellent performances or the high quality of the musical selections (for me, the beautiful Fantasia by Phillip van Wilder is a particular highlight), or with the agreeable effect of the intimate, natural-sounding recording. Two songs by Salamone Rossi actually are from Jewish liturgy, and these are sung by Jeremy Avis in an engaging, plaintive style. While there are no major musical discoveries on offer here--works by these composers are often performed and recorded--the point is that we are invited to hear this familiar music in a different historical/contextual relationship while being challenged to rethink our notions of life and custom and societal realities in a place and period we thought we knew well. This is good--and Fretwork is particularly adept at this sort of thing, leaving us to wonder and eagerly await their next project.

-- David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
The Songs of Solomon: Hashkiveinu by Salomone Rossi
Performer:  Jeremy Avis (Voice)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1623; Italy 
Length: 3 Minutes 1 Secs. 
2.
Lumley books: Desperada no 1 by Anonymous
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 1 Minutes 3 Secs. 
3.
Lumley books: Pavana by Anonymous
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 1 Minutes 13 Secs. 
4.
Lumley books: Desperada no 2 by Anonymous
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 1 Minutes 32 Secs. 
5.
Lumley books: Desperada no 3 by Anonymous
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 1 Minutes 19 Secs. 
6.
Fantasia à 6 no 1 by Thomas Lupo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 4 Minutes 4 Secs. 
7.
Pavan à 3 no 26 by Thomas Lupo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 2 Minutes 56 Secs. 
8.
Fantasia à 4 no 5 by Thomas Lupo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 2 Minutes 1 Secs. 
9.
Fantasia à 6 no 9 by Thomas Lupo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
Length: 3 Minutes 50 Secs. 
10.
Pavan and Galliard no 1: Pavan by Augustine Bassano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 2 Minutes 3 Secs. 
11.
Pavan and Galliard no 1: Galliard by Augustine Bassano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 1 Minutes 7 Secs. 
12.
Fantasia à 5 no 1 by Hieronymo Bassano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
Length: 3 Minutes 5 Secs. 
13.
Pavan à 5 by Joseph Lupo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 2 Minutes 19 Secs. 
14.
Fantasia à 6 no 4 by Thomas Lupo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
Length: 3 Minutes 40 Secs. 
15.
Fantasia à 6 no 11 by Thomas Lupo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 3 Minutes 24 Secs. 
16.
The Songs of Solomon: Shir lamma'alot, essa einai by Salomone Rossi
Performer:  Jeremy Avis (Voice)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1623; Italy 
Length: 3 Minutes 1 Secs. 
17.
Birds on Fire (3) by Orlando Gough
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 2008 
Length: 23 Minutes 14 Secs. 
18.
Lumley books: Galliard(s) by Anonymous
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
Length: 1 Minutes 6 Secs. 
19.
Lumley books: Pavin and Gallyard of Albarti by Albert Kellim
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 1 Minutes 24 Secs. 
20.
Sinfonias (7) for 5 Viols: Sinfonia no 5 by Leonora Duarte
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 2 Minutes 19 Secs. 
21.
Sinfonias (7) for 5 Viols: Sinfonia no 6 on the 8th tone "sopra sol mi fa la sol" by Leonora Duarte
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 1 Minutes 53 Secs. 
22.
Fantasia à 4 con pause e senza pause by Philip Van Wilder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 3 Minutes 40 Secs. 

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