Capella de la Torre / Katharina Bäuml VINUM ET MUSICA

What you get on this release by veteran countertenor Dominique Visse and the Capella de la Torre is something less accessible than what is suggested by the Vinum et Musica title but more accessible than the pedantic subtitle "Songs & dances from Nuremberg sources (15th & 16th century)." The collection of pieces here is a sort of tour of the city of Nuremberg, an important German city in Renaissance times but not one that was home to its own compositional school. Indeed, its influence seems to have been reflected instead in the diverse musical tastes of its residents, who imported music from far and wide. Each of the four categories of the program --"The Emperor's Castle," "The Principal Churches," "The Feast," and "Humanism" -- contains not only German music but that from Italy, France, or the Low Countries. The last of these rests merely on the premise that the four works were part of a songbook compiled by a noted Nuremberg citizen with broadly humanist interests, and it doesn't quite wrap up the whole package. But as a whole the album shows in a unique way how Renaissance styles were refracted through different performance contexts. The Capella de la Torre, with multiple shawms, cornetts, dulcians, and recorders, plus sackbut and organ, can handle anything from the imposing anonymous Fanfare at the beginning to the folklike Ich spring an diesem Ringe (track 12) from the "Feast" section, a grab bag of several different styles. Sacred pieces were part of everyday life and appear in all four sections; mixing them so thoroughly with secular material is a rarity on recordings but probably corresponds closely to how they were actually used. Notable works include the L'homme armé setting by Robert Morton from the middle 15th century, perhaps the earliest written one in existence, and the Kaddish à 5 by Italian Jewish composer Salomone Rossi, present not because there was a synagogue in Nuremberg but because one was destroyed in a pogrom of 1352 and a church erected on the spot. Visse's voice is reedier than it once was, but in general this album is well situated to take the casual Renaissance listener deeper into the music. (James Manheim)

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