Photo: Tom Schapell
When we hear the name Dracula, the image of a bloodthirsty vampire comes to mind thanks to the writer Bram Stoker and his famous 19th-century novel. Yet it seems that Dracula was no vampire at all.
Vlad Dracula, whose last name means “Son of the Dragon” after his father who was a member of the Order of the Dragon, was infamous, however. Dracula was responsible for horrific acts against the Turks in his resistance efforts in the Balkans during the mid-15th Century.
We know of Dracula’s incredibly violent deeds because they were told in a poem by (German poet) Michel Benheim entitled “Story of a Bloodthirsty Madman Called Dracula of Wallachia.” The poem, written during Dracula’s lifetime, was printed a number of times and helped to cement his reputation early on.
Cançonièr and “Son of the Dragon”
The American medieval ensemble Cançonièr has taken inspiration from Benheim’s poem as well as the music from Dracula’s time. Their recording “The Black Dragon” includes traditional and art music of the period in addition to excerpts from the blood-curdling poem.
Several pieces chosen for the program come down to us by way of oral tradition, including Balkan songs from Hungary, Transylvania, Moldavia, and Bulgaria—regions connected with Vlad Dracula.
Eclectic dance music, which played an important role in Hungarian court celebration, is also represented in the program by two 15th-century dances—a French danse du cleves and Italian Amoroso.
Cançonièr’s members are Annette Bauer, Phoebe Jevtovic, Shira Kammen, and Tim Rayborn.
Imagem da Melancolia
The oldest city in Portugal is Braga, located in the northwestern part of the country. The city also lays claim to not only being Portugal’s oldest archdiocese but also one of the oldest Christian cities in the world.
During the late 17th Century, one of Braga’s more prominent composers and organists was Pedro de Araújo, who left us just a handful of pieces for the organ which he composed in a style typical of his day.
The modern Portuguese recorder consort Imagem da Melancolia has arranged several of Araújo’s organ pieces and included them in the recording The Bad Tempered Consort, which contains numerous 17th-century Portuguese works (giving Araújo pride of place).
Johann Sebastian Bach’s sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord have been recorded over and over again, giving many artists an opportunity to put their mark on some of Bach’s more virtuosic music.
Harpsichordist Robert Hill and viola da gambist Ekkerhard Weber have done likewise in an Ars Musici label recording, yet with a twist. Instead of a traditional harpsichord, Hill plays a lautenwerck (basically, a harpsichord with strings made of gut instead of metal). Bach is said to have owned at least one lautenwerck at the time of his death.
The combination of a viola da gamba and lautenwerck, both strung in gut, creates quite a special sound, to say the least.