Boston Camerata; Joel Cohen
Apex 2564 69895-6
Early music for many spans over 600 years to the mid-eighteenth century. This single CD takes in music from precisely those six centuries. They were an exhilarating time although this recording also displays deep and sometimes sad contrasts. Some of the music was composed and performed in Jewish ghettoes, some emanated from the Jews’ contemporary Christian persecutors - and yet both communities were inter-dependent.
This interdependence was traced by Joel Cohen 22 years ago in the original “Sacred Bridge” now available on the Apex budget label. At its most intricate Latin and Hebrew versions of Psalm 114 are interwoven line by line, declaimed by tenor, baritone and counter-tenor. As if that is not complex enough, Joel Cohen turns to Jewish minstrels at Christian Courts. One wonders whether Matthew le Juif was actually this composer’s name at court. For all that, John Fleagle (tenor) does him justice, as Michael Collver’s counter-tenor does Suesskint von Trimberg’s Wa heb’uf.
In fact, Cohen’s selections are not all as complicated in their context. Jewish Folklore of the Eastern Mediterranean takes one through Jews in Provence and among Jews exiled from Spain. Again, the counter-tenor makes his presence felt as does Anne Azéma’s soprano in Morena me llaman and Cansoun d’Esther.
And finally, a large number of tracks interpret the songs of Spain before the exile of 1492. King Alfonso the Wise attracts Cohen’s attention; Collver’s impassioned Madre de Deus, ora por nos explains why this monarch is so respected among early music enthusiasts.