Montreal-based group Constantinople, founded not by Turks but by a pair of Armenians, explores musical meeting points between East and West. The balance may tip in either direction; here, in these "Impressions Baroques," it's a question of Baroque pieces to which improvisations on the setar, a Persian lute, and Middle Eastern percussion have been added. The role of these added elements is rather circumspect, as though the musicians didn't want to get in the way of the album's other main attraction, the unusually large selection of pieces by Venetian singer/composer Barbara Strozzi. These are engagingly sung by Québécois soprano Suzie Leblanc, and they add to the picture of this fascinating figure, but it's not clear that the Eastern elements enhance her music. More successful are the rhythmic dances and songs by Girolamo Kapsberger and Tarquinio Merula, where, even if this album is not meant to be a historical reconstruction, it's possible to imagine traveling musicians in southeastern Europe riffing on the music in this way. The whole thing is lively and enjoyable, although there's something of a "huh?" factor.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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