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The third CD:

Colours in the DarkThe 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.