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     Fono Forum May 2011

In 1532 François Rabelais began writing his series of novels “Gargantua & Pantagruel”. Centering around two giants, father and son, whose adventures and quests parody the exploits of medieval chivalric romance. The names of this duo have remained to this day synonymous for an extravagant, hedonistic outlook on life. It is indeed this sensuality that is a clear trait of ensemble Pantagruel. They may have explored the music of the Renaissance with scientific meticulousness, but their interpretations are not harnessed by mere scholastic academia. An almost subliminal nod to jazz and rock can already be heard in the opening track “The Elves Daunce”. As to the scenic elements of Pantagruel performances they can only hinted at in the highly luxuriously designed booklet.

The two male ensemble members (Mark Wheeler & Dominik Schneider) cover with flute, Bandora, cittern, gittern, lutes etc, the instrumental domain. Anna Maria Wierød bewitches (yes indeed: bewitches) with her bright, seemingly “naive” articulated soprano timbre that can, as in John Dowland “I Saw My Lady Weepe” take on a darker hue and in “Pantheas Lament” wax positively to a “whining”. This clearly demonstrates that the “Phantastical Ballads, Ayres and Dances from Elizabethan & Jacobean England” compass the whole gamut of human experience. It is this breadth of musical emotions that leaves you feeling you can never hear enough.

The programs title “Nymphidia”, is an allusion to Queen Elizabeth I, who was propagated by her doomed favorite The Earl of Essex as a “Fairy Queen”. The root of this metaphorical adoration may have been chiefly political, but the queen herself reveled in it’s design. This is a technically perfect sounding CD to absolutely fall in love with. 
Christoph Zimmermann

Music *****
Sound *****