Les Witches: KING OF DENMARK: Musical Europe at the Court of Christian IV on ALPHA Print E-mail
Classical Reviews - Early Music
Sunday, 13 February 2011

KING OF DENMARK: Musical Europe at the Court of Christian IV Les Witches ALPHA 163 (68:28)


This anthology of 20 Renaissance dance pieces from the early 17th century draws (with once exception, Samuel Scheidt) upon various composers, now mostly quite obscure, who worked at the court of Christian IV of Denmark (1588–1648). The recordings were made in the chapel of Frederiksbourg Castle, using a renowned Baroque organ designed by the German builder Esaias Compenius (1560–1617) and installed at the King’s behest in 1617. Compenius, a friend of Michael Praetorius, accompanied the organ to Denmark and is believed to have died during the visit. Still preserved in its original condition, the instrument—the sole surviving exemplar of Compenius’s craft—has 1,001 wood (not metal) pipes and is powered by four hand-operated bellows.

If this brief description sounds enticing, it should; the instrument has a marvelous array of sounds, ranging from an inimitable soft-grained mellowness in its midrange to a droning buzz in its bass register like the wings of a gargantuan insect. The performances themselves by the five members of the ensemble Les Witches—playing organ, violin, recorders, treble and bass viol, and lute and theorbo—are impeccably graceful, stylish, and winning; the recorded sound is clear and warm. The digipak and booklet feature several color photos of the chapel and organ along with extensive notes in French and English, including details on the various composers, the organ, the recording session, and an analysis of a featured painting, Self-Portrait with Family Members (or Family Making Music ) by the Dutch master Jan Miense Molener (c.1610–68). If you love Renaissance instrumental ensemble music, don’t pass up this delightful potpourri. James A. Altena

Last Updated ( Monday, 14 February 2011 )
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