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CIARAMELLA - Music from the Court of Burgundy - 24 Karat Gold Audiophile CD - 884502057850 - Released: September 2011 - Yarlung Records 05785

The opening line of the booklet notes reads: "Welcome to Europe in the fifteenth century". The tangible immediacy of the recorded sound and the music on this CD evoke such vivid images of Medieval and Renaissance life, that a more accurate statement could not have been imagined. And even though the shawms, recorders, bagpipes, sackbuts and drums used in this recording were all built by present day instrument makers within the last 10 to 15 years, their craftmanship produces a 500 year old sound. The members of Ciaramella, an instrumental and vocal ensemble, search far and wide for instrument makers that apply historical research and techniques combined with custom made tools to produce instruments as authentically and genuinely close to the originals as possible. Add to this just intonation and instruments tuned to A=466, and the only things missing to complete the picture would be leather sandals, a jute fabric shirt and potato chowder.

The music performed ranges from the mellow Comme femme desconfortée by Gilles Binchois to the energetic and lively La franchoise nouvelle by the ever prolific Anonymous, including works by some of the superstars of the 1400s like Isaac, des Prez and Agricola. And interspersed between some of the instrumental pieces are fine examples of vocal writing from the period, like the Urbs beata Jerusalem by Guillaume Dufay, delivered with the same attention to detail and context as its instrumental counterparts. One of the gems on this CD happens to be a piece for recorders only, titled Una panthera by a composer dating back to 1370, Johannes Ciconia.

First and foremost, I believe that what makes the music on this recording come alive are the high standards applied to the sound reproduction. As soon as the music starts, the loudspeakers vanish, and the only way the instruments could sound any more present, would be if you played them yourself. And none of this audio quality is achieved by digital manipulation or gimmickry. But don't just take my word for it. Read what the recording producer has to say about the procedures behind this recording: "There is a distinct breed of recording connoisseur that feels the best-recorded sound comes from the least amount of equipment. One must use the fewest microphones required to capture the sound, and they must be placed in perfect locations. This is the "less is more," "minimalist," or "purist" school. Many microphones, multiple-track mixers, miles of microphone cable can add noise and what audiophiles call a blanket over the sound and over the music. This makes the music seem distant and un-engaging. There are extraordinary recordings made this way. But they are rare, and their engineers walk on water. In these most recent Yarlung Records releases, I use either one stereo or two mono vacuum tube microphones, which record directly to two tracks (left and right, for stereo playback). We use microphones like the legendary AKG C-24, and matched Neumann U-47s. I believe that these minimalist recording techniques will give you, the listener, the most transparent sound, the most accurate soundstage and the most life-like ambiance of these great artists in a concert hall. We use customized vacuum tube microphone preamplifiers instead of a mixer, and our custom interconnect cables. I record analog tape and high definition digital audio (in this case 176,400 samples per second and 24 bit depth). Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray mastered these CDs directly from the digital media, re-sampled to 44.1 kilohertz and dithered to 16 bits so that you can play them on a modern CD player." {Bob Attiyeh - Yarlung Records}

Jean-Yves Duperron - December 2011