Catchy yet pensive, these dance suites convey something of the fascination with the art of love that pervades the Renaissance, a point not lost on Dorian's perceptive marketing staff. Dorian has released a host of thematically programmed early music designed to pique the interest of the novice as well as the seasoned collector. It works; particularly when you have such a sympathetic player as McFarlane, who sounds like your average guy who started his career on electric guitar, gravitated toward the lute, became a world class player, and who, incidentally, enjoys meditating and taking long walks by the shore. His partner for one suite, Mark Cudek, throws in a tidbit about being a competitive tri-athlete. They may be folksy, but don't tell them to get a life.
Works on this program mostly date from the early 1500's, when the European appetite for courtly dance was at its height. McFarlane has selected his favorites from among composers such as Joanambrosio Dalza, Pierre Attaingnant (a publisher of music actually), and Hans Judenkunig. The typical suite begins with a stately main dance (pavana or basse danse) and concludes with a faster, jumping dance (saltarello or hupfauf). McFarlane uses three different lutes by modern masters, selecting the one most appropriate to the music. My favorite of his lutes is an older 8-course; owing to its loose internal bracing, it imparts a unique twang to certain notes. The rustic effect is easily heard on the first suite by Attaingnant, where a series of trills in the Pavane are accompanied by a strummed, ground base.
Dorian uses a well-documented 20-bit technique, and this program was recorded in the revered Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. The good sound that is their hallmark is present here. Easily enjoyed.
Copyright © 1997, Robert J. Sullivan