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Suspicious Cheese Lords Make the Swiss Curious

This just in belated: The review from a concert of the Suspicious Cheese Lords (see yesterday's post) at the Swiss embassy some weeks ago.

Ludwig Senfl is one of the greatest Swiss composers alongside an admittedly sparse lineup that must include Albert Roussel, Frank Martin, and Arthur Honegger. Obscure only because Renaissance music in general does not get excessive attention, he can hold his own next to the greats of his and following times, notably fellow Munichian-by-choice, Orlando Lassus. That, at least, is how Robert Aubry Davis, host of NPR's Millennium of Music, feels about Senfl.

His secular music has recently been given a very fine outing by Fretwork (featured heavily on Mr. Davis's show), though I personally have reservations about listening to more than 30-some minutes of secular Renaissance music at a time. His sacred music in turn is far more pleasing to my ear, and that is what the Suspicious Cheese Lords presented in their Christmas concert at the Swiss Embassy. The program consisted of Senfl's Virgo prudentissime / Fortuna Desperata and the Kyrie and Gloria from his Missa L'homme armé, both of which are on the Suspicious Cheese Lords' recent disc of Senfl's sacred music, produced in cooperation with the Swiss Embassy. (For an explanation of their curiosity inducing name, see my review of their two discs to date.)

available at AmazonL.Senfl, Missa L'homme armé,
Suspicious Cheese Lords

Millennium of Music host Mr. Davis, who loves to toot Senfl's horn, gave a kind introduction, and the Cheese Lords introduced Senfl in English, French, and German (Italian and Raetoromansch were given short shrift) and proceeded to give an example of Senfl's intricate musical meddling in his merging of Virgo Prudentissima with Fortuna Desperata. While the gorgeous resonance of the Franciscan Monastery so well caught on their recordings was missing in the Swiss Embassy's multipurpose hall (filled to the last seat), the sound musicianship of this amateur group was evident. A cogent and tightly woven polyphony resounded during the Senfl as much as during the following Christmas works by other Renaissance composers, traditional songs as well as the ubiquitous Stille Nacht, courtesy of Franz Xaver Gruber.

That J. G. de Pardilla's Las Estrellas se Rien positively reminded me of chicken is no criticism of the countertenor (spokesperson and founder "Skip" West) but rather an acknowledgment that early music, given a healthy imagination, can be plenty of fun and needn't be a drab affair at all. It also hinted towards the food that was to follow at the lovely reception. The Swiss, as the French, know better than to serve wine in plastic cups, and it makes a world of difference. In addition they had bread from a Swiss bakery that night, carved out like a boat, with a ham inside. The carved-up ham, the bread crust—soggy on the inside, crunchy on the outside—and the best potato salad I have had in years capped a wonderful musical evening splendidly.

The Cheese Lords and their Senfl disc will be featured on Millennium of Music on January 24th in a program titled "Cheese and Mustard" (Mustard = Senf(l): get it? What punnery...).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too think Senfl is the best thing since sliced bread (to go with the cheese and mustard) We have just downloaded this and what a shame they aren't in the UK. We have also just organised a weekend's course tutored by Philip Thorby on S's choral works. More power to Ludwig's elbow!