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Classical Music Review

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Back Before Bach


Artist: Piffaro
Label: Navona Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 14 July 2017

Philadelphia-based ‘Renaissance band’ Piffaro's new album Back Before Bach is a compendium of sixteenth and early seventeenth century German and Franco-Flemish music. As the album’s title suggests, the group of composers Piffaro features can be seen as the precedent for the luminaries of the German baroque era, specifically Johann Sebastian Bach...

Back Before Bach is an incredibly well structured and thought out album in as much as it attempts to capture the musical scene of the 16th and early 17th century music coming out of the German and Franco-Flemish markets. Now, with that in mind, you'd think this would have a very niche appeal. Partly that's true, but there's such a diversity here that it should find a wider audience - even as a novelty purchase or for those holding themed banquets or parties.

The album contains 38 tracks (1 hr, 01 min) and opens with 'Christ ist erstanden - Setting a 3' which instantly sounds familiar and brought to my mind old school history shows. This is something that runs through the album - the feeling of having heard things before. It's not the music, so much, as the instruments which were very much of that time. It's a little like how the music featuring the harpsichord always bring to mind the 15-18th century France.

On Back Before Bach a half dozen different types of Renaissance-era instruments are employed, from shawms and dulcians (early oboes and bassoons), to sackbuts (ancestors of the modern trombone), as well as recorders, krumhorns and bagpipes.

While this won't be to everyone's taste, those that are into this sort of thing will get a huge amount of listening pleasure from this wonderfully structured release.


Darren Rea

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