Reviews by the editorial staff of Early Music America. Have a new recording or book? Submit it for consideration.
Listening to the Fur Trade in British North America
The Indigenous peoples of British North America did the trapping and skinning of animal pelts and traded them to European settlers. To keep these mutually beneficial exchanges flowing, the disparate cultures used music, dance, and sound as a vital means of communication. This fascinating book explores how music helped forge cross-cultural trade.
Recording Review: History and Politics Collide with Music from Brazil’s First Emperor
A new recording of sacred music from Brazil's first emperor, Pedro I, shows a skilled composer working in a delightful bel canto style and with theatrical flair. But Pedro's populist reputation (and the recording project itself) taps into today's charged political climate.
Recording Review: Icelandic Baroque Band Brák, Where HIP is Always in Style
Barokkbandið Brák’s multifaceted artistic vision is the real deal. The Icelandic period-instrument ensemble cultivates a dual-pronged musical practice—Renaissance and Baroque works combined with contemporary commissions. Their playing is refined, their vision thoroughly compelling.
Recording Review: William Byrd from The Sixteen and Fretwork
Billed as the first complete recording of William Byrd's final work, his 'Psalmes, Songs, and Sonnets,' this new release features two outstanding British ensembles, The Sixteen and Fretwork.
Recording Review: Bring That Trumpet in From the Cold
The latest recording from the U.K.-based ensemble Spiritato highlights sonatas from the Düben Collection, a huge trove of manuscripts used at the Swedish Royal Court from 1640 to 1720 and containing some of the earliest known music to combine strings and trumpets.
Book Review: Rumi, Music, and Mysticism from the Ottomans
Rumi's poetry has received wide attention in recent decades, as has the Sufi order inspired by his poetry. While scholars have devoted attention to the poet himself, its musical ceremony has not been as well studied. This book helps fill that gap.
Recording Review: Mahan Esfahani’s Bach, Living in the Moment
It's a pleasure listening to Mahan Esfahani’s recent recordings of some of J.S. Bach’s most iconic music for solo harpsichord, including the Six Partitas, Italian Concerto, and French Overture. Together these two discs make a logical, satisfying pairing. They’re exuberantly alive, loaded with insight.
Review: Celtic HIP from Makaris
A best-of disc from 2022. The New York-based Makaris ensemble takes a refreshing, historically informed approach to 18th-c. Scottish tunes, (mis)attributed to David Rizzio.
Book Review: Music, Power, and the Divine Right of Kings
In one of the most turbulent eras in French history, music served to consolidate the power of Louis XIII and legitimize the Bourbon monarchy. Peter Bennett's new book brings together history, theology, and philosophy to fill a major gap on French music in the early 17th-c.
Recording Review: Gambist Teodoro Baù, Making Corelli His Own
Looking for new repertoire, Italian viola da gamba virtuoso Teodoro Baù has turned Corelli's Op. 5 violin sonatas into showpieces for his instrument. The results are exciting, refreshing.