The Musica Antiqua Consort heard on this disc is from Serbia, a country not much heard from on the international early music scene, although the group was founded by its current director, Vera Zlokovich, in 1977. The program is the most innovative aspect of this release: the phrase "The Music of Kings" refers not simply to music from royal courts, but to music composed by monarchs themselves. The cover advertises a temporal spread from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries, but the music actually falls into a medieval group and a Renaissance group, with the chief royal composers from each era, respectively Alfonso X el Sabio of Spain and Henry VIII of England, as the chief foci. There is one piece by Richard the Lionhearted of England, plus a variety of dances and other works interspersed through the program for variety. There are a few problems here, one being the lack of texts (of course not a problem for speakers of Alfonso's medieval Galician-Portuguese). The music is rendered in sparse settings that don't distinguish the medieval and the Renaissance works, with Alfonso's narrative pieces, straddling the line between sacred and secular (the collection from which they are taken, the "Cantigas de Santa María," is something of a Spanish counterpart to the "Canterbury Tales"), taken in too blankly rhythmic a style. The music in general resembles some of the early music recordings of the 1970s, with a large collection of instruments deployed singly or in small groups in the accompaniment to each vocal piece; the more organic feel Jordi Savall has brought to this music is lacking. Yet the disc is never less than a pleasure to listen to. The varied instrumental palette, including such novelties as a Serbian lyre and a set of nakers (Arabic dome-shaped drums with goatskin heads), keeps things lively, and the singers, including Zlokovich herself and a fine countertenor, Predrag Djokovich, are consistently sensitive. The disc makes one want to hear the group's recordings of early Serbian music, a much harder find than Alfonso and Henry VIII, each extensively recorded by their own compatriots.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim