"We are only at the very beginning of the immense task of understanding the vocal, instrumental, and choreographic practices of late sixteenth century France," writes this disc's annotator. It's Italy and its gigantic wedding spectacles that get all the attention at the end of the sixteenth century. (Imagine if Jenna Bush married the son of the president of Exxon Mobil and the White House enlisted hundreds of artists and musicians to build the ceremony.) This disc is, perhaps, for specialists, but it's a lot of fun for anybody. The French historical-instrument ensemble Doulce Mémoire has joined together short (ca. one-minute) dances from the Terpsichore collection (1612) of Michael Praetorius with songs by French court composer Pierre Guédron to form an imagined "grand bal" or grand ball at the court of France's King Henry IV. It is uncertain from existing publications and commentaries what instruments were used in this repertoire; Doulce Mémoire alternates between winds in the Praetorius dances and a small string group backing the Guédron. The group's most distinctive contribution is to play the selections mostly without pause (there are a few breaks), creating, in effect, a sixteenth century dance mix. The CD bins are filled with precious renditions of Praetorius, but these move and push forward as dance music should. Texts for Guédron's songs are given only in French -- not a major impediment to enjoying the music, but the subject matter is sexy, and translations would have produced a smile or two and been easy to fit into the acres of white space on the page. Libraries will want to have this disc, and it makes a fine choice as well for anyone looking for light party music beyond the usual selections -- that was the role it played in its own time.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim