Akoé – Nuevas Músicas Antigua
Dowland: Preludio; Come again, sweet love doth now invite; G Caccini: Amarilli, mia bella; Despres: Mille Regretz; Isaac: Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen; Encina: ¡Ay triste que vengo!; Adrien Le Roy: Passamèze; Hildegard: O Quam mirabilis est; Claudin Sermisy: Tant que vivray
Alpha Classics ALPHA 597 49:07 mins
The debut album of the ensemble Taracea is nothing if not creative – an aural ‘marquetry’ (or ‘taracea’) that pieces together folk and art, past and present. The ensemble has arranged – and transformed – an assortment of pan-European medieval and Renaissance works, whose yearning melodies and wistful harmonies are suffused with nostalgia. Like the music itself, the interpretations are highly eclectic, drawing freely on jazz, improvisation, folk, Latino and non-Western traditions. Instruments, too, are a strange miscellany, selected – one supposes – for their mellow timbres and melancholy hues: husky recorders and flutes, the hoarse serpent, moody double bass and delicate vihuela (a Hispanic lute). Added to these are exotic, folk percussion instruments which tap out hypnotic rhythms or call up the whispering sounds of the natural world. The whole is a tapestry of quivering colours, associations and memories – indeed, the title of the disc, Akoé, comes from the Greek word for ‘remembered sound’.
Among the highlights are Dowland’s ‘Come again’, an entrancing fusion of Elizabethan, Latino and Moorish styles; Caccini’s ‘Amarilli mia bella’, turned into a madrigal-blues – crooned by the soft-rasping serpent with the bassline plucked on a sulky double bass; Isaac’s plaintive farewell to Innsbruck (T5), prefaced with ebbing sounds that suggest the turning tide and Hildegard of Bingen’s ‘O quam mirabilis’, whose original melody is fragmented – like a distant memory – into a ‘mosaic of the air’.
The disc may not be to all tastes, but for anyone interested in an innovative approach to early music, it will surprise and delight.