Les Witches,
Fortune My Foe:
Music of Shakespeare's Time

(Editions Hortus, 1996;
Dorian, 1999)

This is a superb CD for any literature or music teacher. Or any fan of Shakespeare. Or anyone who wants to chill out for an hour of very cool mood music.

Les Witches' Fortune My Foe, subtitled "Music of Shakespeare's Time," is undeniably an educational experience. The music is presented as authentically as possible, according to the liner notes, by the Les Witches ensemble who apply their respective violin, lute, harpsichord and recorders with great skill. The notes also provide a detailed account of the types of music composed and performed during the Elizabethan times, somewhat dark ages for non-patroned musicians.

Les Witches even perform on instruments from an earlier era. Odile Edouard plays beautiful soaring melodies on a 17th-century Italian violin. The talented Pascale Boquet's lute is patterned after a 16th-century original. Freddy Eichelberger's precisely played harpsichord is patterned after an Italian original, though with slightly different tuning. I can't discern the inspiration for Claire Michon's recorders from the notes, but she plays with delightful clarity.

The ballads, dances, court music, jigs and instrumental versions of songs from the plays include those composed by Robert t Johnson, Nicholas le Strange, Thomas Morley, William Brade and the ever popular "Anonyme."

But Fortune My Foe transcends the educational arena. I have rarely heard a more relaxing collection of tunes. The four musicians combine to evoke a peaceful harmonious experience that doesn't necessarily reflect the times of Shakespeare -- or the rushed days of the present. Maybe peace and harmony are something else for us to learn by listening to a well-played lute, violin, recorder and harpsichord.

[ by Julie Bowerman ]
Rambles: 28 September 2002