Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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New York Ensemble for Early Music

  • Istanpitta [Lyrichord, 1995] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Istanpitta [Lyrichord, 1995]
Except perhaps in matters of tempo, where the most leisurely citizens of the machine age feel speed's tug in their bones, there's no way this music could sound as raw as it did back in the day. There's a class bias inherent in the survival as written texts of three saltarellos, which probably involved leaping, and 11 other even more obscure dances--whether or not they started with peasants (or Arabs), presumptive gentlefolk put their estampie on them. What's more, moderns who can play archaic bowed, plucked, strummed, blown, and beaten instruments inevitably come out of the classical world, where they are trained in the sweet, precise intonation that was standardized by the 19th-century orchestra, and director-arranger Frederick Renz is not known for rocking the boat. But frame drummer Glen Velez, who guests on three tracks, can make some noise, and courtly or not, you have to grant these tunes a decisive victory over ye olde test of time. So take this careful, lovely, not altogether unlively collection as a romance about aristocrats who ate with their hands. Anyone with a thing for Shakespearian interludes will love the shit out of it. A-