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Rolf Lislevand Ensemble: Diminuito

In 2006, lute master Rolf Lislevand (who also is a professor of the ancient stringed instrument at Germany's Trossingen School of Music) released Nuove Musiche, featuring new versions of Italian music from the early 17th century. Now comes Diminuito, a collection dating back even further that offers semi-contemporary interpretations of traditional Renaissance sounds.

Recorded in an Austrian church with an ensemble that included soprano vocalists and several other musicians playing mostly organic instruments, Diminuito will appeal to prog fans because of the music's complex yet playful and spirited dynamics. The album's title refers to the practice of embellishing vocal melodies, and Lislevand's lute is the star of this Mediterranean-flavored release that may not rock, exactly, but is certainly nonetheless adventurous. The instrument's warm and agreeable sound, paired with the timeless voices of Linn Andrea Fuglseth and Anna Maria Friman, lend a festive air to the proceedings.

As Lislevand writes in his detailed liner notes, "This recording is all about the Italian renaissance, how it understood itself, how we understand it today and how we would have understood it if we had been contemporary with it." Diminuito is a joyful listen, one that provides valuable musical lessons while also serving as the ideal soundtrack to all four seasons.

Track Listing:
1) Ricercate
2) Saltarello
3) Piva
4) Petit Jacquet
5) La Perra Mora
6) Susanne un Jour
7) Canon/La Spagna/PassamezzoGaillard/Recercada Segunda
8) Fantasía que Contrahaze la Harpa en la Manera de Luduvico
9) Vestiva i Colli/Recercada Quinta
10) Tourdion

Added: January 3rd 2010
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Rolf Lislevand on ECM Records
Hits: 3131
Language: english

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Rolf Lislevand Ensemble: Diminuito
Posted by Alex Torres, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-01-03 11:57:05
My Score:

My wife always looks askance at me whenever I tell her that Handel invented rock music. You may also think it strange but, as a lover of opera, I listen to and enjoy a lot of Handel, and there is much in the melodic and compositional structure that isn't a million miles from rock. Listen hard and you can certainly listen to the transition to today's music, singing and instruments. Of course, I'm not the only one to feel this way about the links between Renaissance period music and rock: none other than Richie Blackmore has a whole group devoted to exalting this music from the past in Blackmore's Night. Many other groups, usually in the progressive-folk or folk-rock genres delve back through the centuries to adorn their own fusions.

It's not so strange, then, that I find myself reviewing a CD of late 16th and early 17th century music on a progressive rock website. Those with truly progressive ears will be open to this music played on traditional acoustic instruments and will delight in its melodies, harmonies and rhythms. It may well not be "rock", but it is music worth listening to.

Not only is the music beautiful but it is wonderfully played and sung by Lislevand and his band of eight other players. The two female singers bring wonderful, light, ethereal textures into play, complementing many of the individual pieces. There are a number of instruments that I don't personally know – the colascione for instance sounds like an Italian breakfast! – but the predominance is for string instruments, mainly plucked but also some bowing. Triple harp, clavichord and organ also feature, as well as percussion.

You may well have heard this sort of baroque music before. Perhaps a difference in this particular case is not only the very early period from which the base compositions are taken – as early as pre 1600 - but also the fact that Lislevand has had to do what musicians of the day also did: improvise around the basic melody, provide the actual "music" that is only suggested at by the original bare melodic structure. So this is much more than "dead" music, it is a brand new, knowledgeable, 21st century interpretation of the past, delivered to delight modern ears. Music making techniques such as this, of course, should not be strange to modern musicians and listeners, after all they are prevalent in most bands, but it is interesting that it goes back all those centuries; indeed, being an invention of this renaissance period. One of the techniques, diminution gives its name to the album.

I can recommend this album to progressive fans who enjoy exploring new music – are there any others? – as there is much to enjoy here, not just in the compositional sense but also in terms of the sonic colors of these "different" instruments. Go on, join the likes of Richie Blackmore and listen to the delights of the past!

Incidentally, the CD's liner notes are excellent, giving a brilliant insight into the origin of this music.

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