Various Artists

Rembrandt: Music of His Time

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With its Art and Music series, Naxos has come up with a classy looking way of recycling earlier items from its catalog. The discs in the series don't quite deliver what they promise, but this one does better than most. The title Rembrandt: Music of His Time is accurate as far as it goes; the art-historical essay on Rembrandt by Hugh Griffith is concise and informative; there are several nice color reproductions included in the booklet, beyond the norm for cost-conscious Naxos. The performances are a nice mix of above-average items from the label's roster of Canadian, British, and Northern European artists, and an effort has been made toward remastering and coherent track sequencing. Is this music Rembrandt would have known? In most cases, no; most of it is not Dutch, and while some music certainly would have been imported to Rembrandt's world, it's not clear the way ballet music by Lully would have been. To focus on Rembrandt's actual musical world would have required a closer focus on the music of the Netherlands during his lifetime, a focus that's necessary to an effort to really understand how art and music interacted in a specific cultural setting. What makes this better than other similar releases, though, is that this is more than just a random cross-secttion of music from the period. Griffith points out points of conceptual connection if not actual connection: amateur music-making (represented by English works and by lute music), Lutheranism, organ music. There are pieces by Sweelinck and other Dutch composers. The result is a disc of value for, say, travelers to Holland or college classes on Renaissance culture, even if it might leave the acute listener hungering for something a bit closer to the mark.

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