"Piffaro, The Renaissance Band," (Joan Kimball, Bob Wiemken, Grant Herried, Greg Ingles, Christa Patton, Priscilla Smith, and Tom Zajac)is primarily a wind ensemble featuring recorders, shawms, dulcians (predecessor to the bassoon), sackbuts (early trombone) and bagpipes, but over time they have also added lute, guitar, and percussion to their kit, as well as a very unusual harp. This was as tall as a large celtic harp but narrower (perhaps with fewer strings?), and had a very clear, sweet tone. It is interesting just to watch the players choose their instruments between pieces, as each musician plays several and I don't think they had the same configuration for any two tunes.
"The King's Noyse" (David Douglass, Brandi Berry, Shira Kamman, Robert Mealy, and David Morris) is a "violin band," or "noyse". They play custom-built violin type instuments of the era, which come in a violin size, a viola size, and a bass viol size. Soprano Ellen Hargis tours with The King's Noyse, and added her haunting voice to a number of pieces in the program.
This concert was originally put together last year, to celebrate Piffaro's 25th anniversary, and Early Music Now prevailed upon the two groups to come together again to recreate it for us.
The musical choices for the concert were drawn from Ferrara, Italy, under the Dukes d'Este Ercole II and Alphonso II, from 1534 to 1598. This was a period when Ferrara, which was also a conduit for French music into Italy, set standards for innovation in music throughout Italy and the continent.
The program, which included pieces by Frenchman Pierre Phalese, the Flemish-born Cipriano de Rore, and Ferraran composers Ludovico Agostini, Luzzasco Luzzaschi and Carlo Gesualdo, was a delight to hear and to see. The pleasure the musicians took in playing together was obvious and resulted in some inspired combining of the two groups' resources.
We both enjoyed this concert very much. I like Renaissance music because it is developed and complex enough to be very engaging, with attractive melodies and sonorities, yet is rarely enough performed to be a treat to the ear.
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