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From Byzantium to Andalusia. Medieval Music and Poetry

Kyrie eleison (Christian-Arabic Tradition, Lebanon) [3:21]
Fa mi cantar l'amor di la beata (Laudario di Cortona (Ms. 91, Biblioteca Comunale di Cortona)) [6:47]
De la crudel morte de Cristo (Laudario di Cortona (Ms. 91, Biblioteca Comunale di Cortona)) [1:59]
Laude novella(Laudario di Cortona (Ms. 91, Biblioteca Comunale di Cortona)) [3:49]
Sallalahu ala Muhammed (Yunus Emre (Ilahileri), Turkey, 13th century) [4:42]
Pesrev (Yunus Emre (Ilahileri), Turkey, 13th century) [1:29]
Ey Derviccsler (Yunus Emre (Ilahileri), Turkey, 13th century) [4:59]
Plangiamo quel crudel basciare(Laudario di Cortona (Ms. 91, Biblioteca Comunale di Cortona)) [4:07]
Venite a laudare (Laudario di Cortona (Ms. 91, Biblioteca Comunale di Cortona)) [2:40]
Keh Moshe (Traditional Jewish, 12th century [1:44]
Adon Haselihot (Traditional Sephardic, pre-1492) [3:21]
Galeas, mis galeas (Traditional Sephardic, pre-1492) [3:48]
Jalla man (Traditional Andalusian School) [4:07]
Stella splendens in monte (Llibre Vermell de Montserrat, Catalonia, 14th century) [8:23]
O Maria, d'omelia (Laudario di Cortona (Ms. 91, Biblioteca Comunale di Cortona)) [5:00]
Peter Rabanser (voice, bagpipe, duduk, ud)
Belinda Sykes (voice)
Jeremy Avis (voice)
Oni Wytars Ensemble
rec. Grosse Sendesaal, Hessischer Rundfunk, Frankfurt, December 2001
NAXOS 8.557637 [60.25]


From diverse source materials this disc explores the three great Mediterranean cultures of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; Christianity, Judaism and Islam. As the notes remind us the three faiths co-existed to varying degrees throughout the period, from Andalusia to Byzantium. The selection here is representative of prayer and dance music of the time, fragmentary and notated, or otherwise preserved. For example the religious fraternity of Umbria known as the Laudesi wrote songs of praise, very few of which have survived. One such however preserves regional dialect (not Latin) and music and records seem to demonstrate that professional musicians accompanied the singers. Secular music seems to have thrived in pre-twelfth century Europe in a way that has hitherto been glossed over or disbelieved. The Red Book of Montserrat for example, an important collection of medieval music, shows that Catalonian life saw singing and dancing in devotional music in a way that later centuries might not have recognised. The poets and composers of such secular material were themselves invariably anonymous.

Few Jewish sources exist though one, one of only two pieces of extant notated Jewish medieval music, is recorded here (track 10 - Keh Moshe) and is a small though vital contribution to Sephardic life in this period. The Anatolian-born Yunus Emre was a Turkish-speaking poet and he represents the Sufic tradition with his popular poetry.

This disc derives from a concert given in Frankfurt. From the applause that greets the last piece it was recorded in front of a studio audience in the Grosse Sendesaal, Hessischer Rundfunk and possibly broadcast as well. Itís performed by the international musicians of the Oni Wytars Ensemble, well versed in performance of medieval and Renaissance music.

Itís difficult to correlate the exact extent of the editing, reconstruction and guesswork that must have gone into these performances. But the plausibility of the performances lies in their subsuming of the scholarly to the practical and in the living current of the performances, both joyous and reflective. The various traditionsís musics, whether intertwined or separate, is brought to life here. The Christian-Arabic traditions for instance are explored in the Kyrie eleison whilst elsewhere the strophic verses over increasingly varied instrumental accompaniment enliven the Fa mi cantar l'amor di la beata. Lyric laments contrasting with jubilatory stance in Plangiamo quel crudel basciare and solo melismas begin the Turkish thirteenth century Ey Derviccsler. Instrumental colour, percussive drama and rich and fluid playing are features of these invigorating performances.

The notes are authoritative and pack in a lot of detail into less than three pages Ė and Iím indebted to them. I reviewed and enjoyed this ensembleís Carmina Burana for Naxos and this latest disc no less.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by William Kreindler



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