The Battle Piece; once the domain of musicologists looking for a subject to write a paper about, today it is -- er -- still the domain of musicologists looking for a subject to write a paper about. Perhaps there is more to it than just that, as here is a whole slew of battle pieces brought together on a loud and boisterous Super Audio CD on Arts entitled Battalia! Baroque Battle Music for Trumpet Consort. It features Italian period brass ensemble Tibicines led by Igino Conforzi performing along with a racket of percussion and, as advertised, "A real surround battle" featuring the sound of "period" battle gear, cheering soldiers, neighing horses, and whatnot. Although subtitled "Baroque Battle Music," just about the only Baroque composer here is Girolamo Fantini, featured in two pieces drawn from a 1638 collection, Mode per imparare a suonare di Tromba. All of the other music is from the Renaissance - late Renaissance in most cases, but Renaissance nonetheless.
One aspect of battle music of this time that has seldom lent itself to collections such as this one is the nature of the music itself. It tends to stick to the tonic and provides little respite from its endless employment of bugle call-like figures; these works were written for special occasions and were simply not meant to be heard one right after the other. Realizing this, Tibicines attempts to leaven the ceaselessly warlike atmosphere through the inclusion of a couple of vocal pieces and a very early solo sonata for trumpet by Cesare Bendinelli. These, and the remarkable Battalia by almost totally unknown Italian composer Donino Garsi, constitute the two most striking works included from a purely musical standpoint. As Tibicines employs natural valve instruments, intonation is all over the place, which can be an interesting sound to those attuned to it, but rather jarring to the uninitiated. Period or no period, there is a trumpet that clearly comes to some kind of disaster in the Fantini Seconda Imperiale; perhaps he was hit by an arrow and fell off the oxcart.
If you are a war history buff and nuts about munitions and battle gear, this might be for you, although one is best advised to take it in small doses in order to avoid the wearying effect of "battle fatigue." Another reason you might want it is if you have neighbors you dislike a great deal and a loud stereo system, Battalia! Baroque Battle Music for Trumpet Consort is just the thing to blow them out of the water.