Fire Music: Infernal Flames and Celestial Blaze
You can tell within seconds that you’re listening to a Capella de la Torre recording. This award-winning early music ensemble has a wonderfully distinctive sound and spirit – wind-dominated, percussion-driven, absolutely authentic but always playful. They’ve also got a good eye for a concept, and this second volume in their current elements-themed series is no exception.
Last year’s ‘Water Music’ began the series with works by Praetorius, Josquin, Marenzio and Morley, and the new ‘Fire Music’ takes an even more eclectic approach. Music inspired by hell, Pentecost (with its tongues of flame), the sun and even volcanoes is drawn from across two centuries, ranging from anonymous late-Medieval dances to the sophisticated madrigals of Marenzio and sacred works by Byrd and Lassus.
Such a collision of musical styles and genres makes for an exhilarating recital, propelled forwards on the resonant beat of Peter Bauer and Mike Turnbull’s drums and tambourines (at their best in Praetorius’s Bransle de la torche and Mateo Flecha’s lively El fuego) with soprano Cecile Kempenaers and her fellow singers providing strategically placed moments of reflection and contemplation like the exquisite anonymous Mundi renovatio and Lassus’s In un boschetto novo. The vocal style here is deliberately folky and direct. In many ways this is the anti-Oxbridge early music disc – authentic rather than too self-consciously artful, delighting in the rougher edges and wilder textures of the period. This is music with dirt under its fingernails, and all the better for it. Katharina Bäuml has put together another idiosyncratic and thrilling disc here, and I can’t be the only one looking forward to the musical earthquakes or tempests of the next volume.