Camerata Trajectina - Suze van Grootel (soprano), Nico van der Meel (tenor), Job Boswinkel (bass), Saskia Cooten (recorder), Erik Beijer (gamba, vedel, trom), Louis Peter Grijp (lute, cither); also Paul Rans (singer), Anne Grimm (soprano), Stratton Bull (alto), Annemies Tamboer (rommelpot), Willem Schot (bagpipes), Mark Vondenhoff and Will Wroth (trumpet), Tessel Grijp, Renate Schoemakers, Laurens and Seven Beijer (children's choir)
Ensemble Oltremontano - Doron David Sherwin (zink), Elisabeth Schollaert (shawm, altpommer), Simen van Mechelen (alto and tenor trombone), Wim Becu (tenor and bass trombone), Rene van Laken (tenor and bass dulcian, tenorpommer)
Total timing: 73:22
Recording date: November 1997 (Utrecht)
This recording commemmorates the 350th anniversity of the Peace of Munster, which marked the end of the Eighty Years' War for the independence of the Netherlands from Spain. Focusing especially on popular songs of protest and resistance, the group leads us through some of the main events of this fateful struggle. We move from early burnings for heresy (#3) and the Duke of Alva's reign of terror initiated in 1567 (e.g. #5, 6, 9), to early military and diplomatic successes for the resistance and the assassination of its leader, William the Silent, in 1584 (#11). Ultimately a stalemate results, with the Dutch Republic holding the Northern Netherlands, but Spain retaining the Southern Netherlands (now Belgium).
Much of the music comes from the "Beggars' Songbooks" of this era; when Regent Margaret of Parma was advised in 1566 that she need not fear a group of petitioning Netherlands nobles since they were "beggars" (French gueux), the movement eagerly adopted this name (Dutch/Flemish geus), which stuck.
Many of the settings on this recording are in a rather straightforward homophonic style, with varying instrumentations demonstrating how an unassuming medium can nevertheless leave open many possibilities for imaginative performers. The closing five pieces in celebration of the Peace of 1648, based on dancelike settings by Giovanni Gastoldi (most from 1591), are in keeping with this style of lucid and sometimes ravishing simplicity.
At various points in the program we hear settings of the Wilhelmus, the theme song of the "Beggars" resistance movement which became the Dutch national anthem. In its diverse guises, ranging from a five-voice instrumental arrangement to a satiric dialogue about Spanish prostitutes and soldiers to an elegant vocal setting by Melchior Franck, this song indeed provides a unifying theme both for the music and for its political context.
Performances vary from the brilliant and seemingly effortless ornamentation of Susato's opening battle pavan (#1) to the irony and laughter of the street and tavern called for by some of the popular songs, and from the stately eloquence of the funeral lament for William of Orange after his assassination (#11) to the exuberance of Gastoldi's dance-songs recruited to celebrate the coming of peace.
Included with the reviewed copy is a 32-page booklet in Dutch providing original texts plus historical commentary and striking examples of artwork related to the history and music. People unfamiliar with Dutch might wish to inquire about the availability of versions with translations into other languages.Margo Schulter
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