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The best kept secret in music


"Castille à Samarkand"

In this unusual and wholly engaging program, the instrumental ensemble Constantinople undertakes a musical journey that draws inspiration from a 15th-century travel diary. The group's aim is to explore "the musical richness and traditions" of the time and places eloquently described in colorful detail by Clavijo, an emissary from Castile to the court of Tamerlane in the Asian capital, Samarkand in 1403. These five excellent musicians accomplish their purpose both with existing music from early manuscripts and with their own creations based on traditional styles and rhythmic/harmonic/modal structures, in this case from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions from Spain to Greece, Turkey, and Persia.
They also make their artful impression with authentic instruments, including lute, recorders, cornetto, viola da gamba, and vielle, along with varied percussion and ancient Iranian instruments such as oud, setar, santur, and tombak. Vocalist Guy Ross (who also plays lute and oud) contributes stylish renditions of several songs, including his own creations and selections from the famous Spanish collection, the Cantigas de Santa Maria. His song "Barabam" is a lively, infectious dance; his "Vermiculus" begins with a slow, mysterious yet inviting tune that grows in intensity before suddenly shifting to a festive scene where you can imagine the entrance of dancers who begin a wild, swirling entertainment. (Even the sound of Celtic fiddle makes a couple of appearances, courtesy of gamba and vielle player Elin Söderström, which is not out of place, considering the ancient Celtic connections with Galicia and Asturia.)
Most of the program is instrumental, much of it improvised to some degree, and the sound, created by the distinct timbres of various combinations of the above-mentioned instruments and by the use of different Middle Eastern modes, will strike most Western ears as pleasingly exotic, familiar from the traditional music played in certain Middle Eastern restaurants and in movies. Much of this music's appeal to those same ears is related to a kind of innocent, naive wonder tied to ignorance of the music's origins, structure, and meaning, its effect being a fascinating strangeness and a sort of enchanted, romantic atmosphere, the kind that captured the imagination of 19th-century composers like Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov.
Whatever the source of its effect on Western listeners, the result of this music rendered by these performers most likely will be a positive experience, and I highly recommend Constantinople's effort as one of the more successful of many similar "East-meets-West" conceptualizations on disc.
--David Vernier
- ClassicsToday/D. Vernier

"The best..."

''Constantinople is one of the world's finer early music ensembles'' - Doug Spencer, The Weekend Planet (ABC)


''Credible, erudite, sensitive, Constantinople's approach scores a bull's-eye.''

- - Christophe Huss, Le Devoir

"French succès"

''Their approach, seeking the instantaneous gesture of improvisation, has a novel sound; a certain innocence created from the meeting of rare tones, even if it means taking on the risky, yet so invigorating territory of recreation.''
- - Roger Tellart, Diapason


''...The sacred is there, beneath our eyes on the stage, through the great communion of the musicians, by their complicity in the improvisations, by the invisible joining of their talents that they have all shown with brio.''
- - Guy Marceau, La Presse


''An exceptional voyage''
- - C.Rodrigez, Le journal de Montréal


''Musical arrangements that reveal unprecedented subtlety, making even the best European ensembles green with envy.''
- - Michel Ferland , Radio-Canada-CBC


De Castille à Samarkand ATMA ACD2 2383
Que le Yable les emporte ATMA ACD2 2379
Carrefour de la Méditerranée ATMA ACD2 2316
Terres turquoise ATMA ACD2 2314
Li Tans Nouveaus ATMA ACD2 2303
Memoria sefardi ATMA ACD2 2247
Constantinople ATMA ACD2 2269


Feeling a bit camera shy


Constantinople is a performing ensemble that draws its inspiration from the music of the Mediterranean, Medieval and Renaissance Europe, and Middle-Eastern musical traditions. Constantinople presents a new form of musical expression, born of a wellspring of transformation and integration of divers traditions from the Middle Ages and today, from here and abroad.

Constantinople provides a forum for cross-fertilization among various musical cultures, both within the ensemble itself and with its guest artists. Constantinople endeavours to consolidate the ties among these cultures by cultivating a unique mode of musical expression -a musical vocabulary that has grown out of extensive research into the history and esthetics of the musical traditions into which it delves, combined with freshness and creativity.

Constantinople has given numerous performances in Canada, in Mexico and in Europe. Many of these have been broadcast on the CBC/Radio-Canada radio network. Winners of the Discovery of the Year Award from Opus Gala in 2003, Constantinople have been the Ensemble in residence at Radio-Canada for the 2004-2005 season. The ensemble is a member of the Conseil Quebecois de la Musique and receives funding from the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Quebec, Canada Council for the Arts and from Le Conseil des Arts de Montreal.