The fourth CD:
The Cosmopolitan—Songs by Oswald von Wolkenstein
Dedicated to the memory of Ulrich Müller († 2012) and with a preface by Dieter Kühn.
Oswald von Wolkenstein: politician, diplomat, Lord of Hauenstein-castle, Knight of the Reign and bon vivant... these were his "main professions" and they took him to nearly all regions of the world known in his time. Today, he is most famous for his most important "hobbies": he was a master poet, musician and composer, a fine singer and player of diverse instruments and, ostensibly was fluent in around ten languages. From no other poet-composer of the Middle Ages has such a multifaceted repertoire been handed down: he wrote not only popular songs and simple, monophonic narrative songs, but also complex polyphony with refined, intricate part writing. Almost everything that was in vogue during his time can be found in his personal manuscripts, but none of the music in his collection can compare to the strange yet fascinating sounds that came from his own pen.
For the CD "The Cosmopolitan—Songs by Oswald von Wolkenstein", Marc Lewon has compiled a programme with his Ensemble Leones that does justice to Oswald's versatility as poet and musician. Alongside rarely heard pieces, they present a series of premiere recordings ranging from multilingual "macaronic" Lieder and travel descriptions to true musical gems.
For more information about this CD click here: About the CD. Since the songtexts could not be included with the CD-booklet, our online tracklist contains links to the website of the "Oswald von Wolkenstein-Gesellschaft", where all of Oswald's songtexts are online.
A complete English translation of all sung text can be found in: Classen, Albrecht: The Poems of Oswald von Wolkenstein. An English Translation of the Complete Works (1376/77-1445), New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2008 (The New Middle Ages), pp. 151-2 (track 01), 96-100 (track 04), 167 (track 05), 79-82 (track 06), 134-5 (track 07), 157-8 (track 09), 217-8 (track 11), 66-7 (track 12), 153-5 (track 14), 174-5 (track 15), 216-7 (track 16).
The third CD:
Colours in the Dark—The Instrumental Music of Alexander Agricola
When Agricola died in 1506 it did not take long for him to become known as one of the "Old Masters". His compositions were held in high esteem and in the beginning of the 16th century they were already counted among the canon of examples for good and sophisticated counterpoint. He did not only compose masses, motets, and chansons, as was customary in his time, but—as a member of the first generation of instrumental composers—also a substantial number of untexted pieces, which due to their particular construction where obviously written for instrumental performance. He developed a genuine musical rhetoric for his textless compositions which in this field reaches much further than the experiments of his otherwise congenial colleagues Josquin Desprez and Heinrich Isaac.
One of his grandest and most unusual instrumental compositions is known under the title of “Cecus non judicat de coloribus”—“The blind may not pass judgement over colours”. This unique composition functions at the same time as point of departure and theme for the CD programme, which includes ingenious adaptations of famous chansons as well as purely instrumentally conceived works. Apart from a number of premiered pieces—amongst them also a composition newly attributed to Agricola by Fabrice Fitch—the programme features the tongue-in-cheek “Pater meus Agricola est” (“My father is a ploughman” = “My father’s name is Agricola”) and an untitled “teamwork-composition” which Agricola apparently composed together with the great Johannes Ghiselin. On the recording these pieces are combined to “suites” which follow a dramaturgical line and produce a plausible context for the individual works. The chansons that inspired Agricola to his instrumental reworkings are sung to give the listener a chance to relive Agricola’s process of adaptation and to fully enjoy this aesthetic experience.
For more information about this CD click here: About the CD.
The second CD:
Neidhart—A Minnesinger and his 'Vale of Tears'
With the birth of the new year, a new CD by Ensemble Leones saw the light of day: This second album came out on January 2nd 2012 and is dedicated to the minnesinger "Neidhart". The CD represents a complete recording of the earliest source of Neidhart songs with melodies, the so-called "Frankfurt Neidhart-Fragment" (c1300). The 6 Neidhart songs are complemented with lively instrumental pieces and 2 songs by Neidhart's colleages: "The virtuos scribe" and Walther von der Vogelweide. To the CD.
Link to the "Making Of" on the NAXOS website.
Personally recommended by Klaus Heymann (director of NAXOS): "The so-called ‘Frankfurt Fragment’ has never been recorded in full and is here performed by one of the most outstanding ensembles in the field. This is a major contribution to our catalogue of medieval music and highly enjoyable listening."
Les fantaisies de Josquin—The Instrumental Music of Josquin Desprez
The first CD-publication by Ensemble Leones has just been released on the Christophorus label. It features instrumental compositions by Josquin Desprez as well as the world premiere recording of Arvo Pärt's composition "Sei gelobt, du Baum" ("Be praised, o tree"). For more information about this CD, as well as some trivia which you won't find in the booklet, click here: About the CD.
"Dear Mr Marc Lewon, it is a wonderful production!!! Cordial thanks to all the musicians. Arvo Pärt" (Mr Pärt's reaction to the finished CD in June 2011)
Founded by director Marc Lewon, Ensemble Leones is dedicated to presenting medieval music through concerts, recordings, and radio broadcasts. The ensemble’s work is characterised by performances that take into account historical sources to create subtle reconstructions and stylistically informed arrangements. Because of the diversity of the music it performs, the size and configuration of Ensemble Leones varies according to the nature of every project.
The musicians perfoming with Ensembles Leones are well established in the world of concerts, recordings, and broadcasts and are also playing and singing with other leading ensembles for medieval and renaissance music, such as Ensemble Gilles Binchois, Ferrarra Ensemble and The Earle His Viols as well as working with individual artists like Andreas Scholl, Dominique Vellard and Benjamin Bagby.