Ensemble Leones / Marc Lewon

Colours in the Dark: The Instrumental Music of Alexander Agricola

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The category of instrumental music was not yet fully independent in the time of Alexander Agricola, who was born in the late 1450s and died in 1506. That explains why this album of Agricola's instrumental music contains a good many vocal pieces: most of the instrumental works of this era were linked to vocal models. In several cases here, most extensively with the little three-part song In minen zin, the vocal piece is presented first, with a sequence of instrumental treatments of it following in the manner of a set of variations, with a small and variable ensemble of strings, winds, harp, and at times plectrum lute. There are works presented singly, without their vocal models (if any), and works by other composers than Agricola, with Agricola involved either as the composer of the original model or of that of the instrumental variations. This is all to the good, for Agricola's instrumental works were part of a larger compositional matrix in which individual authorship was not yet the most important thing. The overall effect is playful and ingenious. None of this justifies the insertion of contemporary works by annotator Fabrice Fitch, based on the pitch content of Agricola's music: these just seem to come out of left field. But the multinational Ensemble Leones, under the leadership of lutenist Marc Lewon offers lively and precise performances, and there is not a surfeit of choices in this repertory. Those interested in the roots of instrumental music in the Western tradition should thus give this release a try.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:25
2 5:02
3 1:18
4 2:40
5 2:12
6 1:18
7 1:28
8
6:16
9 4:03
10
1:37
11 1:51
12 1:13
13 1:30
14 5:50
15 2:56
16 1:56
17 6:08
18 1:19
19 3:07
20 2:36
Agricola VIII / Obrecht canon III: "De tous biens plaine / Tinguely-Brunnen"
21 1:20
22 1:55
Agricola VIII / Obrecht canon III: "De tous biens plaine / Tinguely-Brunnen"
23 1:13
24 4:42
25
3:24
26 2:32
27 5:22
28 3:35
blue highlight denotes track pick