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GRAMOPHONE (09/2015)
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Reviewer: David Fallows

Ever adventurous in their choice of programmes, for their sixth CD Ensemble Leones have chosen German medieval sacred music, mainly of the late 14th century, with a concentration on Oswald von Wolkenstein, about whom we know a great deal, and the Monk of Salzburg, about whom we know virtually nothing.


Both are relatively familiar figures in the catalogue but this CD is adventurous mainly because Leones are not about to shorten a song to make it easy listening: the 14 minutes of the Monk’s Das guldein vingerlein rely entirely on the vital singing of Sabine Lutzenberger and Raitis Grigalis; the eight minutes of Oswald’s Ave mater, o Maria – far more, I think, than anybody has previously tried to record – maintain the same ensemble throughout.


Instrumental performance is entirely in the brilliant hands of Marc Lewon (who directs the ensemble) and Baptiste Romain, with a wide variety of instruments discreetly employed. Lutzenberger is now well known as one of the peerless singers for this kind of repertory, and she decidedly adds to her honours in his recording. A word of warning is perhaps in order: although Lewon’s lucid booklet-note is translated into English and French, the original texts are translated only into modern German. That may not be the end of the world, though, because some of these texts are pretty turgid: the virtues are in their performance.



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