Diego Ortiz: Caleidoscopio. Comet Musicke

Ortiz cover copy

Diego Ortiz: Caleidoscopio

Comet Musicke

Son an ero 18 (2021)

If you are a member of this Society, or at least of that portion of the Society that touches on Renaissance music, you surely know the name of Diego Ortiz (c1510–c1570), particularly for the music of his Trattado de glosas of 1553, an ornamentography manual that in­cludes a number of sample improvisations, some on a tune, some over a bass, and so forth, that have been staples in the solo repertory of early wind and string players for years. A num­ber of these appear on this two-CD set, and they are as good as always. A lot less well known is his Musices liber primus of 1565, a conventional book of Latin sacred music. Eight motets from that book are here, and they are a most wel­come addition to the recorded body of Span­ish Renaissance music. And there are a number of thematically related works not by Ortiz included too. 

Ex tenebris ad lucem: Venetian Penitential Music from a Time of Plague, 1575–77. Concerto Palatino, dir. Bruce Dickey

Ex tenebris cover copyEx tenebris ad lucem: Venetian Penitential Music from a Time of Plague, 1575–77

Concerto Palatino, dir. Bruce Dickey

Passacaille PAS 1135 (2023)


I bet a lot of us who run early-music ensembles have lately had at least a fleeting idea about a show or a recording devoted to music for plague. I doubt that anyone has done it better than Bruce Dickey and Con­certo Palatino. 

            The plague in question was in Venice between 1575 and 1577, killing, as Dickey ex­plains in lucid and absorbing liner notes, somewhere between a quarter and a third of the city’s population. It inspired a considerable religious upheaval, including the construction of Palladio’s Church of the Redeemer, Il Redentore, and, one presumes, performances of a good deal of sacred music in an effort to ward off the pestilence and, later, to say thanks for their deliverance. 

Josh Cohen: Altissima, Works for High Baroque Trumpet

American trumpeter Josh Cohen, already established as one of the leading period trumpeters in North America, has catapulted himself into the enviable position of exemplary historical recording artist with his debut compact disc, Altissima, Works for High Baroque Trumpet. Manifesting challenging repertoire from the late seventeenth through mid-eighteenth centuries, the disc is a vehicle for Cohen to showcase his extraordinary musical artistry on the valveless Baroque trumpet.

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The Breathtaking Collective: On the Breath of Angels

The Breathtaking Collective, dir. Bruce Dickey. On the Breath of Angels. Passacaille PAS 1091, €17.00

Recorded February 2020, available at


On the Breath of Angels is the second release from Bruce Dickey, Hana Blažiková, and the Breathtaking Collective dedicated to exploring the natural and much sought-after affinity between the cornett and the human voice. Anyone who has heard the first disc will know that Dickey and Blažiková’s combined vocality and musicianship achieves this to a remarkable degree, and this second provides further opportunity for intriguing and inventive programming that showcases this partnership.

His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts: In Chains of Gold and Hieronymus Praetorius

chains of goldFretwork, His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts, and Magdalena Consort, dir. William Hunt. In Chains of Gold: The English Pre-Restoration Verse Anthem Vol. 1. Orlando Gibbons—Complete Consort Anthems. Recorded November 17-19, 2016. Signum Classics SIGCD511, Signum Records, 2017.

I have long thought that the best ensemble players are those who are able to intuitively emulate the properties of the instruments around them, no matter how unlike. The first few notes of In Chains of Gold, a sparkling compilation of anthems by Orlando Gibbons performed by Fretwork, the Magdalena Consort, and His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts under the artistic direction of William Hunt, transported me to that time and place where instruments and voices have arrived at a perfect fusion of affect and color while yet retaining each of their distinct qualities.

Concerto Palatino: Nature’s Secret Whispering

Concerto Palatino, dir. Bruce Dickey. Nature’s Secret Whispering: Music in the Cosmolo­gy of Johannes Kepler (1571–1630). Passacaille PAS 1073, recorded November 2019.

In the more than thirty years since it was founded by Bruce Dickey and Charles Toet, Concerto Palatino has become, I think it’s fair to say, the gold standard of early-mod­ern brass ensembles—both for the uniformly superb level of their playing and for the interest­ing projects they have taken on. Here is perhaps their most interesting pro­ject yet: a pro­gram of music revolving (no pun intended, sort of) around the thought of the great astro­no­mer Johannes Kepler.

Univ. of Kentucky Baroque Trumpets: Hyde's Preceptor (1799)

University of Kentucky Baroque Trumpet Ensemble. A New and Compleat Preceptor for the Trumpet and Bugle Horn by J. Hyde (1799). dir. Jason Dovel. Sontius Records SR 004, recorded Summer 2020. Available on iTunes

Friedrich Anzenberger (HBSJ 1993) noted in the first of his series of articles on trumpet methods that this is the first English method book for trumpet and bugle to be published. Jason Dovel and the fine trumpeters of the University of Kentucky Baroque Trum­pet Ensemble have done the brass community a great service by recording all the music from this important fifty-page method. There is some question as to whether Hyde’s first name was John or James. The title page of the method says the music was composed and compiled by J. Hyde and lists his affiliation as “of the Opera House and Trumpet Major to the Gentlemen of the London & Westminster Light Horse Volunteers. Of course, today Hyde is most remembered for the invention of the English slide trumpet. The title page also  indicates that the Cavalry Duty and Signals are “approved of and ordered by his Royal Highness the Duke of York, Com­mander in Chief.”

Review of High Bridge Brass (2019)

High Bridge Brass Album

High Bridge Brass, High Bridge Brass (Summit Records, 2019). For further information, click here.

This new recording of two brass quintets (Op. 5 and Op. 11) by Russian composer Victor Ewald and a brass sextet (Op. 30) by German composer Oskar Böhme shows off the advantages of playing these early works on their intended instruments.