Spielleyt delights with early Christmas music

The early music ensemble Spielleyt serves up a fresh approach to classical music of the season. Weihnacht der Spielleyt primarily consists of selections from one publication: the Straßburger Gesangbuch of 1697.

Technically, this collection came out in the middle of the Baroque period. But most of the songs are much older than that. And Spielleyt peels the layers away to reveal their Medieval and Renaissance origins.

The ensemble plays a variety of early music instruments; lute, hurdy-gurdy, viols, Celtic harp, recorders, and so on. The ensemble follows the outlines of the music from the Gesangbuch. That is the melody and the bass line.

By swapping out viol and hurdy-gurdy for the expected cello and harpsichord, the ensemble changes the character of the music. To my ears, these selections sound neither Baroque nor completely Renaissance. Rather, they’re somewhere in between, almost in the realm of folk music.

Soprano Regina Kabis sings with a clear, pure tone. She uses vibrato sparingly, which also adds to the “ancient” sound of these performances.

There are some familiar selections from Tielman Susato’s Danserye and Michael Praetorius’ Terpsichore. For the most part, though, the tunes were new to me. I think that added to the appeal. I could listen to the Spielleyt’s interpretations on their own terms, rather than comparing them the way I thought they “should” go.

I think Spielleyt was successful in their experiment. This release should appeal to fans of early music — and especially those who enjoyed Spielleyt’s previous releases.

Weihnacht der Spielleyt
Strassburger Gesangbuch (1697)
Spielleyt – Early Music Frieburg
Christorphorus CHE0218-2

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