Organic Creatures

Medieval organs composed – Decomposed – Recomposed
Catalina Vicens
Timings not available (2 CDs)
Consouling Sounds SOUL0139

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Catalina Vicens sets out in these two CDs to produce something rather different from the usual early keyboard recording. She avoids the small amount of surviving keyboard repertoire and, instead, gives us a selection of early vocal music from Hildegard of Bingen to Henry VIII, passing through some Notre Dame Organum, the Italian Ars Nova, John Dunstable and Heinrich Isaac. This is supplemented by a range of contemporary music by Prach Boondiskulchok, Carson Cooman, Ivan Moody, Olli Vitaperko and Vicens herself. She uses a number of modern copies of small Medieval organs by Winold van de Putten and others, as well as two historic instruments: that in the Andreaskirche in Ostönnen from c. 1425 (reckoned to be the oldest still playable) and the other from 1531 in the Krewerd’s Mariakerk. The sounds she produces are equally not always those which might be expected: the organ pipes can resemble Japanese flutes, panpipes or foghorns, with flutter-tonguing and lots of drones. Other noises sometimes intrude and have deliberately not been edited out. The most experimental pieces are the two by Boondiskulchok and that by Moody, which produce some fascinating sounds. Vicens’ own music generally lies closer to early models, though with some experimental resonances too. Overall, there is an affinity between the Medieval and contemporary tracks which allows a seamless movement between them, making the whole production something of an extended meditation with a strong sense of improvisation. It has grown on me and is certainly a worthwhile undertaking, with excellent recording quality. My only gripe is with the lack of information about instruments and music in the beautifully designed booklet – or on the website to which the listener is directed. We don’t even get timings for the tracks which vary considerably in length. The musicologist in me wished for more details but perhaps the recording is aimed at a different kind of audience!

Noel O’Regan

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