Jacob Heringman's "Black Cow" takes its name from a Polish song ("Czarna
crova") featured in an intabulation by Valentin Bakfark, one of six
Bakfark intabulations featured on the CD. Heringman has drawn a sampling
from Bakfark's arrangements that reveal's the cosmopolitan nature of
Bakfark's publications: featured are Crecquillon, Clemens non Papa,
Arcadelt, and a wonder from the sixteenth-century motet repertoire,
Josquin's "Qui in altis habitat". Also included are two Bakfark
fantasias and twelve Polish Dances by Matthaeus Waissel. Anyone who has
unsuspectingly sat down with Bakfark for a casual sight-read will
immediately comprehend the challenge of the undertaking by the nature of
the beast. The full-textured, highly imitative subjects of Bakfark's
intabulations represent the heights of Franco-Flemish polyphony through
the generation after Josquin. The subtleties of counterpoint and sound
present challenges to any interpreters(s), and Heringman, armed but with
a six-course lute, has done a valiant job of taming them.
His technique affords a clarity and sense of ease capable of mastering
the left hand requirements--both of strength and stamina for the constant
multiple stops, and the agility necessary for the divisions and passage
work. The playing is very even, and his lute beautifully brings out the
lush sonorities and poignant dissonances of the music, as well as the
graceful ornaments of Bakfark's arrangements.
The pieces by Waissel, presented without any further explanation as
"Polish Dances", are interspersed between intabulations and fantasias,
perhaps as light diversions. They are all pleasant pieces, played with
the same evenness and capability. Nevertheless, although succeeding at
sending the more substantial works into relief, they tend to take on the
character of "musical afterthoughts," and all of them, duple-time
pavanne-like dances, are by interpretation (perhaps by nature?) somewhat
nondescript. Heringman does tend to take some liberties of tempo and
rhythm with the languid "minor-more" dances, but the others, in
general, tend to lack a correlative spark or playfulness. Furthermore, the lack of any commentary about the nature of the dances, their published titles, etc. tends to compound the impression of these as "background" or "filler."
Overall, it is a fine recording of a repertoire that bears further investigating and perhaps offers an encouragement for the timid among us to go another round with Bakfark.
Peter Franklin, Lute Society of America Quarterly, February 2000