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Geld Macht Musik - Money Powers Music - Music For The Fugger Family

Geld Mache Musik / Weiss / Bfive Recorder Consort
Release Date: 09/27/2011 
Label:  Coviello Classics   Catalog #: 21105  

Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A highly entertaining disc, thanks to both music and performance.

It isn't always that easy to find a correct title for a disc. The subtitle of this recording says "Music for the Fugger family". That is definitely not correct: the music on this disc wasn't written for the Fuggers, rather collected by them. Another problem is that a title in one language can't always be translated into another language without losing some of its meaning. And that is the case here as well. The German title says: "Geld Macht Musik". These three words are nouns, meaning "Money Power Music". But "Macht" can also be a verb, and than the title says: "Money Makes Music". And that
Read more is exactly what the money of the Fuggers did.

They were one of the wealthiest and therefore most influential families in southern Germany in the 16th century. They were of middle-class origin but entered the ranks of the aristocracy thanks to their affluence. As merchants and bankers they were "as tough as nails", Markus Bartholomé writes in his liner-notes. They were not afraid to use their money for political reasons, as Emperor Charles V experienced. When a change of law was considered which would have had a negative effect on their business activities Jakob Fugger reminded the emperor: "It is well-known that Your Imperial Majesty could not have acquired the Roman crown without my help ..." And that was the end of discussion.

At the same time the Fuggers played an important role in the cultural life of their time, and especially in music. Young members of the family were sent abroad, not just to broaden their horizons as businessmen and extend their network but also to experience the music scene elsewhere. Markus Fugger the Younger sang regularly with Flemish musicians during his stay in Antwerp. Raymund Fugger the Younger is especially interesting in regard to music, as he collected almost 400 musical instruments. And the playing of the music on this disc with a consort of recorders is justified by the fact that the catalogue of the instrument collection of 1566 lists 26 wind consorts. Moreover the inventory mentions "a large case containing 27 recorders, large and small, made in England".

The Fuggers collected not only instruments but also music. The programme of this disc consists of pieces from three collections. These are likely the result of Raymund Fugger the Younger's passion for music, and are preserved in the National Library in Vienna. They show which music was played at the time. Comes as no surprise that composers from the Franco-Flemish school - which dominated the music-scene in Europe until the mid-16th century - are particularly well represented. The largest part of the music lacks a text, despite its clear vocal origin. In fact these are arrangements of vocal items for a consort of instruments. These collections give us a good insight into the repertoire of consorts of recorders or other instruments. One of the collections also contains some so-called Tenorlieder. These are polyphonic pieces with a cantus firmus which is to be sung by a tenor. Ludwig Senfl is the most prolific composer of such pieces, and he is represented with Die prünlein die da fliessen. This collection also contains some purely instrumental music, like the settings of Tandernaken. The third source offers dance music from all parts of Europe, including Spain and England. It is the earliest known printed dance music and was published by Bartholomäus and Paul Hess in 1555. The dances come from this collection, and the practices of the time suggest that players were used to perform them with considerable freedom.

The musicians have made a very fine selection from these three sources which guarantees a maximum of variation. That is also due to the scope of the music, ranging from transcriptions of vocal pieces to dance pieces. The members of B-Five use a number of recorders - all copies of historical instruments - in various combinations. Unfortunately the track-list doesn't give the scoring of the various tracks. The playing is of the highest order, technically immaculate - which is anything but easy with a consort of recorders, especially in regard to intonation - and shows much flair and imagination. Recordings with such music can be a bit short-winded as most pieces are rather short, but the artists keep things going and make the most of everything. Johannes Weiss has a nice voice and has found the right approach.

This disc is highly entertaining, thanks to both music and performance.

-- Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International
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