Canticum Novum is a group with a message. The CD booklet states
that their “founding principle … is to convey through
music a message of mutual respect, tolerance and acceptance
of the Other.”
The ensemble is based in the Loire department in France and
has been resident at the Opera Theatre de Saint-Etienne since
2007. The ensemble was founded by Emmanuel Bardon in 1996. Bardon
originally studied cello but then moved to vocal studies. His
article in this CD booklet describes this disc, “Paz,
Salam & Shalom” as “a point of departure, a
place where the dialogue, the encounter with the Other and spirituality
spark off the process of transmission”.
I must confess that I don't really quite follow. But this doesn't
actually matter as the recital itself is infectiously involving.
The centrepiece is a group of Sefardic songs from the 15th/16th
centuries sung in Ladino: 'Noches buenas', 'El Rey de Francia',
'La estrellas de los cielos', 'Por alli paso un cavallero',
'Ir me quiero Madre,' 'A la una naci yo'. Ladino was the language
spoken by Spanish Jews, comprising a mixture of medieval Spanish
and Hebrew. When the Jews were expelled from Spain, they travelled
to the eastern Mediterranean. There, isolated from Western Europe
in the Ottoman Empire, the Ladino language and their songs survived;
the Ladino language acquired loan words from the host countries.
The songs on this disc come from Turkey, Jerusalem, Alexandria
These are contrasted with a selection from the Cantigas de Santa
Maria, a remarkable collection of medieval poetry and music
from 13th century Spain: 'Miagres fremosos', 'De
oge mais', 'Santa Maria Strela do dia', 'Todo los Santos,' 'Muito
faz gran ero'.
Finally there are two items from the Muslim tradition: 'Danza
Ritual', from Argella, and 'Uskuder' from Turkey.
The group consists of three singers and eight instrumentalists:
Barbara Kusa, Emmanuel Bardon, Yves Berge (vocals), Valerie
Dulac (viele, lire d'archet), Gwenael Bihan (flutes), Philippe
Roche (oud), Remi Cortial (oud, bandolim), Aroussiak Guevorguian
(kanun), Henri-Charles Caget (percussion). The instruments include
a bandolim (a Portuguese mandolin) and Tibetan bowls, not authentic
but intended to widen the range of colours and timbres available.
The arrangements are lively and infectious. The Sefardi songs
are often full of longing and regret. The opening song, 'Noches
buenas', is typical with its haunting exotic languor. It is
given a strong rhythmic underpinning which is common to all
the arrangements. Many of the songs are given with slow introductions
and only eight are sung, the remaining five are purely instrumental.
This disc covers similar musical ground to Jolaresa's recent
disc “Dancing girls of Granada”. The approach of
the two groups is slightly different; Canticum Novum's arrangements,
though rhythmic, don't feel quite as infectiously danceable
as those of Joglaresa.
The CD booklet includes articles by Gilles Granouillet and Emmanuel
Bardon with full texts and translations for the songs which
are actually sung. It might have been helpful to have had the
words for the songs which are performed purely instrumentally.
This is rather an enchanting disc. You might be put off by the
flowery language of the CD booklet, but the performances are
thoughtful and engaging.