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Simon Thompson
MusicWeb International, August 2008

…an endearing collection of a broad range of medieval music, both sacred and secular…Variety is the key to the first disc. There is both sacred and secular music on offer here, from poignant Crusader songs (tracks 1 to 3), rumbustious settings of Carmina Burana and anonymous laments, through to the visionary, ecstatic settings of the famous Hildegard of Bingen. Everything on this disc is very well done: the exposed instrumental playing is very fine, with caring attention to the historical detail of the instruments themselves. Similarly the singing in the sacred moments is effectively sonorous and evocative. Equal credit goes to the engineers here for capturing such a convincing church acoustic. There are some nice surprises here, such as the Cantigas by King Alfonso The Wise of Castile.

Disc 2 consists completely of Gregorian Chant…sung very clearly and accurately by the Nuova Schola Gregoriana…The third disc…presents music from different traditions and courts that surrounded the Mediterranean around the times of the Crusades. Western European elements are represented by some vividly sung choruses (tracks 1 to 3) which represent secular concerns such as love, the awakening of Spring and drinking. Similarly there are sacred manuscripts from Florence and Germany. The most interesting music on this disc, however, is the contrasting music that was coming out of the contemporary Levant. The Syrian Dinaresade is a surprisingly hypnotic piece whose purpose was to draw the listener into the music as a way of meditating and transcending his environment. The Croatian and Arab elements show a mingling of the traditions of East and West, while the works of Yunus Emre show how the Turks were responding to their own mystical traditions.

All of the music on this set is well performed and the presentation box is attractive. Don’t buy this set if you want to find out about the musical traditions of the Templars, however, because it will get you almost nowhere. If, on the other hand, you’d like to dip into medieval music and sample a very wide variety at very little cost then this set is as good a place as any to make a start.

Gary Higginson
MusicWeb International, July 2008

This triple CD box set is testimony, in part at least, to the sterling work that Naxos have been doing over the last decade not only for early music in general but for many performers from all over the world who would otherwise have remained little known to us. Several of them are represented here and their work is astonishingly varied, often controversial but always exciting and worth hearing. This is a compilation box and it comes with all the frustrations and pleasures you might expect. It is after all meant as a stimulus to buyers to investigate the work of these groups. On the other hand it could be seen by some purchasers as constituting the early music section of their collection.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, June 2008

The order of the Templars was established in Jerusalem in 1119, shortly after the First Crusade. The purpose of the order was to protect pilgrims making their way to and inside the Holy Land. The Al Aqsa mosque had been converted into a church (or temple), and the founding group of French knights derive their title of Templars from that source.

The handsomely packaged 3-CD set represents a scholarly selection from the very many early and medieval music CD’s in the Naxos catalogue. With the exception of the third disc (Music of the Church), one needs a powerful magnifier to read the numerous performers’ titles. They are, however, uniformly excellent, and Naxos’ sound engineers have achieved a homogeneous (and superb) sound for the entire diverse collection. This is an early music treasure-trove!

Stephen Eddins, June 2008

The first volume of this three-CD set, Music for a knight, consists of a widely varied assortment of pieces, some sacred, some secular, some instrumental, and some vocal, including trouvère and troubadour songs, Cantigas de Santa Maria, dances, and works by Hildegard and Perotin, taken from about a dozen previous releases by ensembles such as Tonus Peregrinus, Oxford Camerata, Ensemble Unicorn, and Ensemble Accentus. The diversity of material and performing forces makes this an especially attractive disc, and the performances are outstanding—lively and polished. The second volume, Music of the church, is a reissue of a single CD, Adorate Deum: Gregorian Chant from the proper of the mass, performed by Nova Schola Gregoriana, and all-male ensemble led by Alberto Turco. This CD is notable for its homogeneity—all the chants are monophonic, and the performances are quiet and low-key. This would definitely work as lulling background music or as an aid to relaxation or meditation. The third volume, Music of the Mediterranean, provides a fascinating combination of Eastern and Western music of the period, including an astonishing setting of the Kyrie Eleison that sounds like it came from a mosque rather than a church. As in the first volume, the selections come from a variety of previous releases, with the Ensemble Oni Wytars is featured prominently. The sound is consistently good for all the selections. The collection should be of interest to early music fans, and is especially useful in that it points listeners to the CDs from which the selections are taken.

Brian Wilson
Classical Net, June 2008

The Naxos performances of both the Carmina Burana and the Cantigas are more declamatory than their rivals and this is true of all the pieces performed here by Ensemble Unicorn and Ensemble Oni Wytars, separately or together. The only CD featuring Oni Wytars which I did not already have is From Byzantium to Andalusia; the performances from that programme are sufficiently persuasive to add the rest of that album to my wish-list.

The extracts from the Oxford Camerata’s recordings of Hildegard of Bingen will almost certainly whet your appetite for the parent CD and their other Hildegard recording. Whilst these are not the last word on Hildegard, they will serve very well as an introduction to her…

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