The latest segment catalogue of Early Music covers a vast landscape in time – almost a thousand years – during which sacred and secular music burgeoned slowly but distinctively across Europe.
The development of vocal and instrumental styles during the era mirrors the societies that produced them: from the exuberant and bawdy 11th and 12th-century texts of Carmina Burana, spread by itinerant scholars and clerics using Latin, the pan-European language of the time, to the dramatic importance of music in Shakespeare's plays, reflected in the musical subtleties created for his texts by composers contemporary with the bard.
From Gregorian plainchant to the colour and variety of later styles, the musical backdrop to the panoply of life that is generally shrouded in the mists of time is clearly documented here. Mediaeval, Renaissance and the early shoots of Baroque music are gathered either in discrete discs by composer or in compilations: the distinctive sound-worlds of Leonin, Byrd and Monteverdi, for example, alternate with French chansons, German lute songs and Italian dramatic laments.
The importance of influential rulers in the story of music from these centuries is also felt; for example, in the wealth of music written for Queen Elizabeth I of England who was the subject, dedicatee and audience for many of the works written by composers throughout her long reign.
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