Specialists in the music and music-drama of the Medieval and Renaissance periods, New York's Ensemble for Early Music is world-renowned for its scintillating performances of everything from bawdy ballads of worldly brilliance to the mystical glories of sacred motets. Consisting of young, American virtuoso specialists, the Ensemble vividly recreates the rich colors of the era by using an array of authentic instruments and techniques of performance that blend imaginative insight with sound scholarship.
Frederic Renz direttore
Conceived, recorded and produced by Giulio Cesare Ricci
Recorded at Santa Sabina, Rome in November 1986
The Ludus Danielis is part of the Christmas cycle of liturgical dramas. It belongs, that is, to the groyp of texts which originated as figures to speech, or annotations, of the Christmas religious office, wherein they evolved with specific features of their own, if not as independent spectacles.
It appears the the Ludus Danielis was first realized by the young scholari of the Episcopal School of Beauvais around 1140, a time when the western door of Chartres Cathedral was being completed, and Eleanor of Aquitaine was turning her court into a gathering place of Langue d'Oc troubadours and clerici vagantes.
Although it did not have the international renown of Paris, Metz, Montpellier, etc., Beauvais was a major cultural center in the XII century and its Episcopal School a hive of artisit activity. As was typical of the period, the organization, perparation and performance of sacred works primarily served an educational purpose - that of making the message of the dogma effectively accessible, by explaining it both visually and acoustically, to the many who were to be over to the Christian cause and knew no Latin.
Beauvais saw the concrete application of the teaching principles which involved authors and performers, masters and students in a operation unmistakably connected with religious workship. The aim was a medieval reconstruction of the original characteristic of Greek classical drama - the logical derivation from the rite - which in this case translates the whole of sacred history into the simplest terms.
In its linguistic and historical connotations, the Ludus Danielis falls into the generic category of 'liturgical' or para-liturgical drama. There was action, dialogue, a suitable staging and, above all, a fair number of characters played by actors connected with the clegy.
The texts, which drew their subjects mainly from the Bible, were preserved in church manuscripts and breviaries.
In fact, the chief trait of liturgical drama as opposed to subsequent sacred drama (known variously as Mistère, Miracle play, Sacra Rappresentazione, etc., according to the country) is its close relationship with the liturgy, from which it is derived and of which it adopts the language (Latin), the actors (clerics, even for female roles), the site (church) and the occasion (holy days). In this sense liturgical drama is still a rite, and the medieval man called to see it (the first document in the West date back to the end of the IX and the beginning of the X century) is essentially a believer who in conscious of taking part in religious observance.
Not many examples of liturgical drama have come down to us that took their theme from the Old Testament. Of these, the two most convincing ones were based on the Book of Daniel. They reached an extremely advanced degree of metric variety in their strophic composition, and had a splendid effect when performed. The first was the work of the cleric Hilarius, the second the combined effort of the scholari of Beauvais Cathedral.
Of the two, the Beauvais version is th eonly one with the musical part clearly scored on the tetragram, and it is the second version, with its wealth of melody, its variety of rhythm and mode, its color and allegory, that constitutes the Ludus Danielis. The subject-matter is based on well-known episodes from the Book of Daniel in the Vulgate: Belshazzar's magnificent banquet, the mysterious handwriting on the all, Daniel's interpretation of the words and the reward for his prophecy, the return of the sacred vessels to the temple, Belshazzar's defeat by Darius, Daniel's appointment as Darius' regent, the envious councelors' plot against Daniel, his casting into the lions' den and safe-keeping by the angel, and finally his prophecy of the advent of the Messiah. There is no doubt that even at the time the Ludus Danielis was considered a sumptuous play, presupposing the use of a considerable number of performers and a profusion of objects and symbols taken from the dramas, and it seen by many scholars as the point of arrival of a long process of evolution through time. Just around the corner are more complext works that are destined to makr the seperation of the dramatic action from liturgical usage, paving the way for the transition towards a new type of medieval theater, still edifying perhaps but no longer: tied to an act of faith.
© Luigi Bellingardi
Notes About the Recording:
One basic feature, which determines the difference between fonè and other record companies, is the recording of performances in their natural spaces, that is in the places where they were originally presented. This leads to a constant search for suitable locations, and the choice of churches, theatres, country mansions, drawing rooms and so on. The recordings are carried out with the utmost simplicity, the only way not to do violence to the music: all the equipment is high fidelity; use is made of valve-type paired microphones manufactured in the years 1947 and 1949 (U47, U48 and M49) with an extremely natural and transparent timbre and a bi-microphonic field effect; these microphones have a very important history: they were used to record the Beatles at the Abbey Road Studio and by the RCA for the 'Living Stereo' recordings.