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GRAMOPHONE (08/2016)
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Reviewer: Fabrice Fitch

If Michael Praetorius’s music has been widely anthologised, the same is not true of his close contemporary, Erasmus Widmann, who outlived Praetorius by a dozen years. His Musicalischer Tugendtspiegel appeared in 1613, just one year after Praetorius’s Terpsichore musarum, the two publications making up the totality of this recital. In this case, the greater share of the programme goes to the lesser-known composer. Widmann’s charming habit of affixing female names to his dance pieces (Helena, Foelicitas, Magdalena, Sybilla, Regina and so on) prefigures the occasional practice of later periods. In fact, the majority of the pieces recorded here are dance music, something that is still relatively rare on recordings of this period. If this is undemanding music – one dance begins to sound much like another, especially in Widmann’s case, it must be said – the variegated approach to scoring keeps the listener guessing. But that variety flatters to deceive: the frequent chopping and changing (sometimes within the same section of a given dance) betokens a degree of micromanagement by the ensemble director. This seems out of place in such obviously functional music, which was surely intended to be performed with minimal preparation (if any). The selections from Terpsichore have more substance about them but the suggestion of colours pasted on (albeit lovely ones) makes an otherwise pleasant recital seem curiously old-fashioned.


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