Begona Olavide


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In his program notes, luthier Carlos Paniagua (who built all the psalteries in this recording) defines a psaltery as basically "a closed wooden box with a series of metallic or catgut strings on one surface that form a scale and are plucked," and as a generic term for "all stringed instruments without a neck, except for the harp and lyre." That definition is wide open, and modern musicologists and performers aren't helped by the fact that there are no two Medieval sources that agree on what a psaltery looked and sounded like. Paniagua bases his instruments on depictions of the instrument in early art, and while there is no way of determining their acoustic authenticity, they sound fabulous. The half dozen or so instruments Begoña Olavide plays on this CD vary hugely in their tone and character. The majority of the selections use small ensembles of string and percussion instruments, giving the album a wonderfully colorful tonal palette. The performances are notable for both their elegance and their spirited lilt; in these lively realizations, there's nothing dusty or mannered. The CD includes a nice mix of well-known pieces, such as the Lamento di Tristano, La Folia, and a Cantiga, as well as a number of relatively obscure pieces and an original improvisation. The sound is vivid and clean, with an intimate sense of presence. The CD should be of strong interest to fans of early music.

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