Terpsichore: Muse of the Dance
Skip Sempé has given himself and Capriccio Stravagante something of a 25th-anniversary gift with this excellent, period performance rendering of the German composer Michael Praetorius. Though, it’s not just the repertoire and resources that elicit memories of the late David Munrow, the bold early music pioneer. Sempé’s career has been similarly Pied Piper-ish, making scholarship the servant, rather than the master of performance. He is unafraid to popularise, driven by curiosity and an eagerness to seize the spirit of the music by the scruff of the neck. In performance, he communicates with a real sense of immediacy.
Capriccio Stravagante takes on its Renaissance orchestra formation on this recording, which cuts excerpts from Praetorius’s Terpsichore with the less well-known dance music of the English composer William Brade. It’s all played by a ‘Theatrum Instrumentorum’ – including the exotic gut-strung keyboard tiorbino – based on the different combinations outlined in Praetorius’s written volume De Organographia. The pleasure principle might be uppermost here, but that doesn’t preclude a playful sophistication, as well as seductive sobriety. The players improvise exuberantly, as if at some Renaissance jam session; they are clearly having a ball. David Munrow would have loved it.