The Knights Templar returned to the public conscience through the DaVinci Code, if not through the vastly superior Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto EcoFoucault's Pendulum, and this three-disc set from Naxos reaches out to those who may wish to investigate this era, or at least its music, a bit more closely. Culled from a selection of earlier releases "Time of the Templars" gives a sampling of Spanish and Mediterranean music from the Middle Ages.
Disc one, "Music for a Knight" ranges from energetic drum and lute driven trouvère songs to contemplatively sung early examples of organum, the first polyphonic vocal settings, to represent both the Templars militaristic and faith-defending duties. Also present are some contemporary settings from the Carmina Burana (predating Carl Orff's by seven or eight centuries) along with a handful of compositions by Hildegard von Bingen.
Disc three is a sampling of "Music of the Mediterranean". Also drawn from a variety of earlier releases, many cuts feature the and Ensemble Unicorn. Featuring music from Syria, Macedonia, Croatia, Turkey and more, all are quite exciting and all make me want to check out the original discs.On the Way to Bethlehem (Music of the Medieval Pilgrim)
Disc two, "Music of the Church" is a selection of Gregorian Chant, well done but nothing special, although to be honest seventy-five minutes of chant is more than I'm usually interested in at one time. Still, a good chant disc belongs in every home and this one will fit the bill.
Sure, groups like Hespérion XXI, Sequentia and the Boston Camerata have all made definitive recordings of the music or kind of music you'll find in this set, but they all work for pricy European labels which can be hard to find and cost the same per disc and you'll pay for this entire set, and these performances certainly hold their own. An enjoyable listen in it own right, but also a good jumping off point for further exploration.