For anyone hoipng to discover new types of music, compilation CDs offer an accessible overview from which they can pursue areas which interest them. The project is always a daunting task how should one go about it and what should be included? Inevitably, the selection of chosen material is determined by the record company’s existing catalogue; thus the resulting CD says more about them (here Naxos) than the repertoire itself (here early music). Nevertheless, Discover Early Music’ is a laudable attempt, attractively packaged and supplemented with a readable booklet.However, there are some real anomalies here 1. Why is Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-77), the most important figure of the Ars Nova, unrepresented? Why is the Italian Renaissance madrigal absent? (see below *1). This is all the more difficult to explain given the existence in the Naxos catalogue of exemplary recordings of both of these (see below *2)!!2. The ordering of material is somewhat illogical the carol Gaudete (c.1582 here given the evasive attribution traditional ) is followed by a cantiga from Alfonso X of Castile’s collection (compiled 1250-80), Dufay (c.1398-1453) is followed by Landini (c.1325-97), Dowland (1563-1626) is followed by Isaac (c.1450-1517) 3. To illustrate the observation that modern performances of the same piece can vary in ensemble and interpretation, the CD presents Josquin’s El Grillo (CD1 tracks 15 + 16) and Landini’s Non avra ma’pieta questa mia donna (CD1 tracks 10 + 11) (p.34), but this is misleading: they come from contrasting versions in separate manuscripts from different decades! The one example here which actually substantiates this point is, oddly enouugh, overlooked (Susato’s Gaillarde I, CD1 tracks 19 + 20).In short, the idea behind the compilation is praiseworthy, but not entirely successful; the more extensive 10-CD set on Harmonia Mundi (albeit at a higher price) is more convincing.*1 The closest included examples Josquin’s El Grillo (CD1 tracks 15 + 16) and Lassus’ Lagrime di San Pietro: I. Il magnanimo Pietro (CD2 track 12) being a frottola and spiritual madrigal respectively.*2 , Oxford Camerata/Jeremy Summerly (Naxos 8.553833) and Monteverdi (1587), Delitiae Musicae/Marco Longhini (Naxos 8.555307)
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