Tuesday, September 25, 2012

La Porte de Félicité

Here's another you won't find in Palookaville: two small ensembles, one "Renaissance," one "Ottoman," playing together, but not just interwoven and not just fusion: rather an honest effort to create a dialog that allows the musicians to engage with each other while maintaining their own cultural identity.,

The two groups were/are Doulce Mémoire, the Renaissance outfit, and  Ensemble Kudsi Erguner, their Ottoman companions. A bit of Googling suggests that both groups have made their bones in Europe while the participants would be virtually unknown in the US. Just in general--remember Noah Greenburg and the Pro Musica Antiqua (if you are old enough) or any other reedy, wheezy outfit you ever heard at a Ren Faire (only a whole lot higher quality than Ren Faire). About the only composer I recognized was Guillaume Dufay whose lifespan (1400-1474) encompasses the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, but it didn't matter; the programmers clearly made an effort to put together compositions that would respond to each other.

Only one "disappointment," though I can't say I shouldn't have been prepared. That is: this was another of the "church concerts," so popular in Europe, where the various proprietors surrender their sacred space to music, so as not to yield entirely to ghosts. They can be fun to be in, but the trouble is that the acoustics are awful and here, sadly, matters hit the usual standard. We sat next to the Ottomans and they came through loud and clear, but the Ren team, though performing so far as I could tell, at an alpine standard, more or less lost itself in echoes and reverberations.

The particular venue, by the way, was Brussels' Église Sainte-Marie, bleakly suitable in the respect that it is about the most syncretic piece of church architecture I've ever seen. But no, the music was precisely not syncretic--like I said, conversation. And I shouldn't make too much of the acoustics. It was a fascinating evening, well conceived and well executed, the likes of which I am not likely to enjoy soon again.

Oh, and that title, above: apparently it's one of the many names for "The Sublime Port," the GHQ of the Ottoman Empire.  The Turkish rendering here was Bâb-ı Âlî.

Update:  Oh, there's a DVD.   So I can get it in Palookaville after all.  Cool.

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