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Rolf Lislevand, Nuove Musiche

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Nuove Musiche, adapted and arranged by Rolf Lislevand (released on March 7, 2006)
This is one of the strangest discs to come across my desk in the last few months, but it has found its way back into my CD player time and time again. I wrote earlier this summer about Ignoti Dei's experimental theater piece Ground, which used historically informed performance of Baroque ground bass pieces as its soundtrack. Here also, on this extraordinary disc, Baroque specialists -- let's call them HIPsters -- have fused early music with something strikingly modern. The performers are drawn from the membership of Hespèrion XXI, Jordi Savall's early music group based in Catalunya (whose excellent recording of the music of Don Quixote I recently dissected in some detail) and the related group Ensemble Kapsberger.

Lutenist Rolf Lislevand selected pieces of music from the late 16th and early 17th centuries, pairing pieces by relative unknowns like Giovanni Kapsberger, Domenico Pellegrini, Alessandro Piccinni, and Bernardo Gianoncelli with a few better-known composers, like Luys de Narváez and Girolamo Frescobaldi. Plucked strings make up most of the group: Arianna Savall on voice and triple harp, Bjørn Kjellemyr on bass, Marco Ambrosini on nyckelharpa, Thor-Harald Johnsen on chitarra battente, and Lislevand on lute, guitar, and theorbo. They are joined by Guido Morini on organ and clavichord and Pedro Estevan on a wide range of shimmering, clacking percussion. What they make of these old pieces -- by coincidence with the Ground production, mostly passacaglias -- is a host of very modern sounds, part New Age, part Wyndham Hill (shudder), part Minimalism, part Iberian folk jazz (as heard on NPR this past spring). Much of the final sound laid down on these 17 tracks is due to improvisation, inspired by a very scholarly examination of the source scores. Although I have had my share of beefs with the crossover phenomenon, I just cannot resist the feathery touch of this suave, understated recording.

ECM New Series 1922

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