Review By Jonathan Woolf, Naxos,June 2006
From diverse source materials this disc explores the three great Mediterranean cultures of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; Christianity, Judaism and Islam. As the notes remind us the three faiths co-existed to varying degrees throughout the period, from Andalusia to Byzantium. The selection here is representative of prayer and dance music of the time, fragmentary and notated, or otherwise preserved. For example the religious fraternity of Umbria known as the Laudesi wrote songs of praise, very few of which have survived. One such however preserves regional dialect (not Latin) and music and records seem to demonstrate that professional musicians accompanied the singers. Secular music seems to have thrived in pre-twelfth century Europe in a way that has hitherto been
Few Jewish sources exist though one, one of only two pieces of extant notated Jewish medieval music, is recorded here (track 10 - Keh Moshe) and is a small though vital contribution to Sephardic life in this period. The Anatolian-born Yunus Emre was a Turkish-speaking poet and he represents the Sufic tradition with his popular poetry.
This disc derives from a concert given in Frankfurt. From the applause that greets the last piece it was recorded in front of a studio audience in the Grosse Sendesaal, Hessischer Rundfunk and possibly broadcast as well. It�s performed by the international musicians of the Oni Wytars Ensemble, well versed in performance of medieval and Renaissance music.
It�s difficult to correlate the exact extent of the editing, reconstruction and guesswork that must have gone into these performances. But the plausibility of the performances lies in their subsuming of the scholarly to the practical and in the living current of the performances, both joyous and reflective. The various traditions�s musics, whether intertwined or separate, is brought to life here. The Christian-Arabic traditions for instance are explored in the Kyrie eleison whilst elsewhere the strophic verses over increasingly varied instrumental accompaniment enliven the Fa mi cantar l'amor di la beata. Lyric laments contrasting with jubilatory stance in Plangiamo quel crudel basciare and solo melismas begin the Turkish thirteenth century Ey Derviccsler. Instrumental colour, percussive drama and rich and fluid playing are features of these invigorating performances.
The notes are authoritative and pack in a lot of detail into less than three pages � and I�m indebted to them. I reviewed and enjoyed this ensemble�s Carmina Burana for Naxos and this latest disc no less.