If music in the 15th century really was as enjoyable as the Ensemble for Early Music showed last night, life in the court of Philip and Good must have been rather nice. The group played music for "Saints, Sovereigns and Sinners," delighting the eyes and ears of an enthusiastic Terrace Theater crowd.
It was a musical world far from counterpoint but close to the heart of song. There were ravishing songs from the Burgundy Court, hilarious bawd from Florentine carnivals, soldiers' tales and more. And the spontaneous intonation reminded us of the chance and charm that ruled this lovely music. If much of it was suspiciously low for the countertenor range, Peter Becker sang with exquisite phrasing and an evenly produced passage from tenor to mezzo. Soprano Sally Sanford took a bit to find her placement but showed both humor and musicality for Dufay's plaintive "Donnes l'assault."
The raunchy mme and hysterical singing of a Florentine peasant song stopped the show. In the Spanish selections, particularly in the Pilgrim Songs of Monserrat, the lively ensemble missed the subtle Sephardic and Arabic influences. Tina Chancey bowed gracefully over the violin's ancestors, Dennis Godburn kep on surprising with various wind instruments, and director Frederick Renz led the group from the clavicytherium with a well-deserved smile.