Review: Indy Early Music's Plaine & Easie 

4.5 stars

Festival Music Society; Indiana History Center; July 22.

Sometimes a foursome can deliver more than a sixsome or sevensome. That happened on Friday at the Indianapolis Early Music Festival — the fifth in the FMS's six-concert series. The young performing group — one soprano and three string players — call themselves Plaine & Easie, while their program title was Joie Musicale: Breve et Facile (Musical Joy: Brief and Easy).

This was music of the French Renaissance — the era identical to the Elizabethan music we heard two weeks earlier by the Baltimore Consort. And while each selection was indeed short and indeed produced lots of joy, the music was only "easy" to listen to — not to play. Of the group's 28 offerings, in sets of two, three and four, eight had a vocal component, for which Linda Tsatsanis shared her impeccable singing, the best we've heard so far in this Indianapolis Early Music season. Renaissance violinist Shulamit Kleinermann, bass violinist Nathan Whittaker and lutenist John Lenti easily competed at this level with their playing.

As only three works from that period survive in score for this player combination (all by Englishman John Dowland), our Plaine & Easie group did lots of rearranging of pieces scored differently, sometimes requiring scholarly guesses at proper harmonies. Of the myriad composers represented, I recognized only two names: Michael Pretorius and Roland de Lassus, the latter better known for his religious choral polyphony. But this was all secular polyphony, ranging in mood from sad to glad, played and sung to a farthing. Plaine & Easie gave us, from start to finish, a Rich & Rewarding experience.

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