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ensemble leones
Ensemble Leones
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  • One of Marc Lewon's projects is to develop a technique of employing the plectrum lute soloistically for playing polyphony, based on the ideas of his former teacher, Crawford Young. This means using a technique of playing both with the feather plectrum and with finger nails; a technique that can be heard on several of the more recent recordings featuring Lewon, either in the intabulation of at least two voices within an ensemble piece or with solo two- to three-voice lute pieces. Track 1 of the CD, Ile fantazies de Joskin, is such a polyphonic intabulation for the solo plectrum lute and suggests how a 3-voice composition may be portrayed using this technique. Track 16, Une musque de Biscaye, features the plectrum lute playing an intabulation of the two contratenor lines.

  • All members of the ensemble use only pure gut strings, as metal wound strings are an invention of the Baroque period and no wire-wound strings can be found until about 1650. The use of pure gut in the bass registers results in a very rich, dark, and grainy texture, which lends a characteristic sound to the ensemble and guarantees a very good blend of the instruments.

  • The pieces marked as "monody" in the tracklist comprise songs which are transmitted only as monophonic lines in the manuscript sources. The instrumental accompaniments to these vocal monodies (tracks 17, 22, 28) were conceived by the instrumentalists themselves in contemporary styles. In track 28, A Dieu, mes amours, the lute merely provides a simple formulaic counterpoint to support the melodic line. In track 22, Sy je perdoys mon amy, the vielle is employed in a folk-like manner using a combination of drones and pseudo-polyphonic counterpoint. In track 17, Une musque de Biscaye, the lute plays a 3-part counterpoint that was set in the style of the frottola from around 1500.

  • The (gothic) harp in this recording is primarily utilized with "bray pins", which comprise of small rods that create a buzzing sound when applied to the strings. In the 15th and 16th centuries, harps were customarily provided and played with these pins, resulting in a sound that radically differs from what is nowadays associated with the sound of a harp. Even though it is already generally accepted knowledge that the bray-pin harp was the standard in this time, this understanding is still not established in modern informed performance practice. A general change in thinking as well as the further development of building and playing techniques is essential to firmly introduce this sound in modern performance practice. The dismissal of the bray-pin harp is usually due to bad press around it as well as inadequate and poor technique on the instrument. The advantage of the bray sound is that it enables a near perfect blend with bowed strings and increases the volume of the harp in such a way that it balances well with such an ensemble. In some cases when listening to the recording of a pure plucked piece, listener have already wondered what kind of vielle is playing along - merely an effect of the bray pins.

  • The cornetto had been in use at least since the 15th century. It, however, remains strangely underused in performance practice of music of the late middle ages and early Renaissance. Five tracks on this recording are supposed to show how valuable this instrument can be to the world of early instrumental music.