German poet and musician Oswald von Wolkenstein (circa 1377-1445) made sure his legacy was secure by having his works compiled into collections during his lifetime. While he was certainly the author of the texts, it is less clear how many of the pieces, which number over 130, include his original music, and how many had his texts applied to preexisting works. In any case, it's an intriguing and attractive body of work, and this collection of 18 of his pieces, plus three other works, makes a fine introduction to his legacy. Von Wolkenstein was a versatile poet, whose topics include his own fascinating biography, courtly love, erotic love, and religious devotion. Counter tenor Andreas Scholl has the understanding of the idiom of the repertoire and the vocal and expressive versatility to bring these songs, from the comic to the most earnest, to life for the modern listener. His is not the most purely beautiful voice, especially in comparison with the abundance of exceptional male altos, mezzo-sopranos, and sopranos that emerged in the first decade of the 21st century, but he's just about ideal for inhabiting the world of these very early Renaissance songs. Soprano Kathleen Dineen (who also plays harp) sings beautifully in the handful of polyphonic songs. The singers are accompanied by Shield of Harmony, a quartet that specializes in music of the 15th century, which consists of strings -- plucked, bowed, or struck -- including a Gothic harp and a dulce melos, a predecessor of the hammered dulcimer, under the expert leadership of Crawford Young. Harmonia Mundi's sound is clean, with a warmly present, intimate ambience.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins