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Arts & Entertainment

Peter Stenshoel's album of the week: Renaissance Dances by Lionel Rogg and The Ancient Instrument Ensemble of Europe

Kevin Ferguson

This was my introduction to the early music of Europe. I found the medieval positif [] organ pieces especially jarring, with their freewheeling construction, not moderated by the heavy rules of composition which the Renaissance and Baroque periods imposed on tunesmiths. Jarring and perplexing as these dances were, they ultimately won me over. I became a lifelong advocate of early music ensembles. 

For us today, used to huge pipe organs, it can be a relief to hear less bombastic organ sounds. The positif organ could almost be a Farfisa electronic organ from a 60s combo.

When I played an estampie (a dance form where the dancers, yes, stamp) for my friend, Damon, he remarked that it sounded like Star Trek when some foreign planet stages a procession. Indeed, this old music presents ripe ground for film scores wishing to present "the other."

Odyssey, CBS's low-priced imprint, released really fine performances culled from European labels. This disc originally had appeared on Harmonia Mundi. All the performers are top-notch. My only complaint, albeit a minor one, is the album's title, which neglects the several medieval numbers gracing the wax.