Ciaramella: Music from the Court of Burgundy
Recorded in Alfred Newman Hall, University of Southern California
9-16 June 2008
Adam Knight Gilbert and Rotem Gilbert, directors
Notable slide trumpet by Geert Jan van der Heide, 2001, Putten, Netherlands after illustrations from the era and a fifteenth century natural trumpet recently discovered under the ruins of a French castle (see Madeuf, Pierre-Yves, Madeuf, Jean-Francois, and Nicolson, Graham: “The Guitbert Trumpet: A Remarkable Discovery,” HBSJ 11, 181-6).
This is an excellent recording; a true joy on every level. Ciaramella is an alta band and, not surprisingly, shawms figure prominently (ciaramella is Italian for shawm). The ensemble carefully mixes and matches the shawms with recorders, bagpipes, vocalists, percussion and brass (slide trumpet and sackbuts), weaving the latter in and out—often exposed to prominence. The performance is excellent on all levels so before commenting on the brass performances, it behooves me to make some general observations.
All of the playing is at the highest level. Blend and intonation are wonderful. Their use of just intonation is obvious and appreciated. I am impressed with their sense of ensemble and especially with their uniform releases. Historic articulations are evident throughout. The playing is always lively, dance-like when applicable, but vocal in approach. There is some wonderfully facile recorder playing on Ciconia’s “Una panthera.”
Though not the featured instruments, the brass work of Greg Ingles and Erik Schmalz is excellent in every way. They support when necessary, but shine forth well when called upon, such as in the opening of the “Plasanch or tost” of Pykini and the “Roti boully joyeulx” arranged by Adam Gilbert. Their intonation is perfect and they each display nimble technique as well.
Numerous composers such as Guillaume Dufay, Ciconia, and Alexander Agircola are represented. The additional works arranged and composed by Adam Gilbert are quite successfully conceived in the style of the period. Chansons are presented with treatments by different composers. This reviewer’s favorite is the classic tune “Fortunata desperate” as treated by Antoine Busnois, Johannes de Pinarol, Heinrich Issac, and Agricola.
This recording is a pleasure. The music is all interesting, performed at the highest artistic level, and done so with obviously joyous spirit. It is a must for members of the HBS to have, not only for the excellent slide trumpet and sackbut performances, but also as a model of style and performance practices of this repertoire.
-- James Miller