Revolt of the Brotherhoods: War and peace in the Renaissance
Capella de Ministrers, Carles Magraner
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This CD, marking the 500th anniversary of the uprising of the Guilds in Valencia (the ‘Germanies’ of the title), the Spanish equivalent of the roughly contemporary Peasants’ Revolt in Germany, proves to be a celebration of battle music from the Renaissance. All the old warhorses are here – Isaac’s Alla Battaglia, Susato’s Battle Pavane, the Gervaise Pavanne and Galliarde de la Guerre, Andrea Gabrieli’s Aria della Battaglia (for which the programme note erroneously claims a period instrument premiere performance!) and Hassler’s Battle Intrada and Gagliarda. The rather cavernous acoustic of the church of Sant Miquel dels Reis in Valencia proves problematic for this repertoire. The rather dominant drumming has a tendency to ‘jam’ the other wavelengths, and in tandem with some rather ‘coy’ playing of the wind instruments, the impact of this martial music is dissipated – surely it is clear that this secular battle music for instruments just wouldn’t have been performed in this kind of bathroom acoustic! Things don’t really improve, however, with the addition of the singers, who seem to inhabit an artificial space both too close to the microphones and simultaneously swimming in the larger acoustic. These recording idiosyncrasies cannot be ignored, and this is a great shame, as the repertoire and performances seem generally good, expressive and idiomatic, and the copious supporting notes are fascinating and comprehensive. Some listeners will take exception to the over-busy percussion, including deep drums, cymbals and some sort of tubular bells, but I have to say I found the acoustic more troubling. I would love to have heard these performances by what are clearly fine musicians of intriguing repertoire in a more stable and clear acoustic, where I could have enjoyed their musicianship more thoroughly.
D. James Ross