One of a group of discs from the Carpe Diem label exploring Italian music from the early seventeenth century, this release draws on the talents of a group of mostly German younger players who have studied the performance practice of this music in depth. The composers represented here are little known, and music of the period is usually played, when it is played at all, on a homogeneous consort of modern brass instruments. The Ensemble Badinerie restores something of the original sound to the music with period instruments -- the cornett (a smooth-toned, curved, or even serpent-shaped wind), the dulcian (the bassoon's direct ancestor), a variety of keyboards and lutes for continuo, and, on this disc, recorders. Few of these pieces specify instrumental forces; those that do so rarely include a recorder, but annotator (and recorder player, natch) Rahel Stoellger argues that the recorder was a commonplace instrument of the time, one for which other music would have been arranged. Whatever the truth of this contention, the music is varied and attractive. The pieces are called sonata, capriccio, or fantasia, or they may have the name of a bass pattern or dance; they experiment imaginatively with the dances, the improvisatory forms, the larger multi-sectional forms out of which grew the instrumental genres of the mature Baroque. The instrumental sounds are distinctive and a lot of fun even for those with little familiarity with music of this period; sample Bartolomeo di Selma's Fantasia per fagotto, track 10, for a taste of the dulcian and its buzzy sound. The dances of Maurizio Cazzati (1620-1677) are an appealingly diverse lot, with the mysterious Ballo del Ombre (Dance of the Shadows, track 18) and subsequently hearty Ballo de Contadini (Farmers' Dance) forming an especially sharp contrast that will snare the ear of anyone who has sat through too many dull brass quintet recitals. The musicians of this circle are bringing an obscure repertory to life, with a relaxed, in-control attitude replacing a false grandeur. Listen and enjoy.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim