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GRAMOPHONE (02/1978   )
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Harmonia Mundi
HMG 508099

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Reviewer: Mary Berry


Dr René Clemencic has an almost uncanny knack of bringing early music to life in performances that are full of imaginative vitality. How authentic his reconstructions are in the field of Troubadour songs may well be another question and one for the specialist. But here , at least, is a lively disc that I personally would wish to possess, if only for the sake of the two delightful vidas -those semi-legendary lives that were used by the joglars as introductions to their performances of the songs. The two lives are recited with gentle verve and delicate humour, in the warm tones of a modern Occitanian speaker, who knows how to hold his audience spell-bound. One item that I enjoyed less was Bernart de Ventadorn's famous Quand vei la lau zeta mover, in spite of its beautiful and moving accompaniment. To my mind the mood and style of the singer were too reminiscent of modern 'folk'. I did, however, admire his rough, slightly nasal vocal quality. The same roughness was appropriate and most enjoyable in the rumbustious twelfth-century A I'entrada del temps claro The clear-cut antiphonal effects and the jubilant cries of "Eya, eya" are accompanied by hurdy-gurdy, tambourines and bells.


This raises the whole question of the introduction and use of instruments. Any instrumental reconstruction is bound to be largely a matter of conjecture, depending on the taste and imagination of the interpreter. Some of this experimentation is quite effective, I think, particularly the more restrained and selective use of individual instruments. I find the drumming in Peirol's Quant Amors trobèt partit very exhilarating and not overdone. The use of melody instruments in unison with the voice but with their own profusion of ornaments is a familiar technique still practised in the Middle East and elsewhere. Dr Clemencic acknowledges Arab influence and suggests that this is historically sound. Another delightful effect is a continuous gentle background murmur of string tone . And a third is the sound of low-pitched strings being bowed over a drone. It will be interesting to see if any evidence ever comes to light to substantiate some of these musically attractive ideas that are vivid and real to the imagination and a delight to the ear.


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