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As with most music from this period, where it survives at all there is just a melody line with no indication of performance style, arrangement or accompaniment. In some cases only the words survive and Joglaresa apply a common medieval technique and use another existing tune for the words. After a long period when music of this period was recorded rather plainly, it is pleasing to hear Joglaresa performing in a manner reminiscent of Music Reservata. Joglaresa's musical style allows plenty of room for improvisational and ornamental freedom. They do not stick to one particular style of delivery, but vary it depending on the piece. The result has enormous freshness and immediacy. They wear both their scholarship and performance technique very lightly, these songs are enormously enjoyable and infectious -- which is as they should be, after all they were written for instructional entertainment of the illiterate masses and engaging their attention would have been essential. The arrangements here, are of course, completely speculative and the purist could argue that sometimes Joglaresa go too far; but faced with such enjoyable music making, who could really complain.

The disc opens with Madalena degna da laudere, a song from the late thirteenth century, which they perform in a vivid dance rhythm, the singers performing in a manner very reminiscent of Jantina Noorman of Musica Reservata [listen -- track 1, 0:01-0:53]. This is supremely effective for one song, but more would be too heavy on the ear. Sensibly, the next song on the disc, O Madalena che portasti is performed with a harp accompaniment in a manner very reminiscent of Celtic folk-music [listen -- track 2, 0:12-1:15]. This is one of the items which survives only in text form and is performed to the tune of another thirteenth century lauda. At this point, purists may wonder if this disc is for them, but in the next piece the group demonstrates a fine purity of technique. In this song, Ave, clari generic Dulcis Magdalena, the music is a conductus from Notre-Dame, a wonderful piece of three-part polyphony which receives a superb performance [listen -- track 3, 1:37-2.39]. Similarly, the plainchant Victimae Paschale, an eleventh century Easter sequence which receives a hauntingly simple performance from Jennie Cassidy and Belinda Sykes [listen -- track 5, 0:00-0:38].

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Copyright © 15 January 2004 Robert Hugill, London UK


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