Selected Repertoire


Ballets Royaux

A selection of music from the time of Louis XIII played by Braccio and danced by the Belgian dance groups l'Espanoleta and Chierlycke Danseryen. Includes recently discovered choreographies for dances from Praetorius' ever popular Terpsichore, music by French violinist/dance masters who worked in Sweden and Germany, as well as dance suites chosen by the King of France's personal librarian.



John Dowland published his most popular collection, Lachrimae, or seven teares in 1605, the same year as Shakespeare's King Lear was first performed. Like Lear, Lachrimae explores the deepest melancholy in order to bring the audience to a cathartic sense of peace. Braccio last played these "7 passionate pavans for violins or viols" at three sold out concerts in Amsterdam, and now incorporates some of Dowland's lute music, as well as his galliards, allemands, and voltas into the program.


Saltarello -- music from Gasparo Zanetti's Il Scolaro

The concert version of the music on the disc, 17th century Italian "feel good" music for lutes and violin band.

"I found myself spending a very enjoyable hour or thereabouts listening to this collection of expert players, and my goodness, their ensemble is excellent. This collection ended up being somewhat therapeutic, too, as the last listening was made when feeling quite unwell at the start, and feeling a lot better by the end. Perhaps this disc should be available on the National Health." (from a review on SA-CD.net)


Frescobaldi Arie & Canzone

Deservedly well known for his extraordinary keyboard music, Girolamo Frescobaldi was a master at other genres as well. He composed a beautiful collection of arias (both serious and festive) as well as canzonas for 1 to 4 instruments. This concert presents a balanced picture of the work of this great master.


Venice North and South: Music from Hamburg and Venice

The violin tradition in Venice began early: there are documented violin consorts from the 1530’s onwards. Some of the repertoire now more associated with winds (Giovanni Gabrieli’s canzone, for example,) were also in the violin band’s repertoire.

The violins in Venice also played ornamented arrangements of vocal music and sonatas specifically written for them, such as those by Dario Castello.

In Hamburg, the Venice of the North, violinists dominated the Ratsmusik. While there is much evidence of Italian musical influence, the music also comes from the strong Northern consort tradition of rich, polyphonic arrangements of songs and dances — music such as Thomas Simpson’s ricercar on "Bonny Sweet Robin," or suites of dances by Johann Schop, John Dowland, and Johann Vierdanck.


Jewish Dance Music from the 16th Century (or, Music of the Secret Jews)

Many of the first violin consorts were made up of Sephardic (Spanish) Jews who were pursued across Europe by the Inquisition beginning in 1492. A significant number of Jewish families found refuge in Northern Italy, where they influenced the course of renaissance music by making and assisting in the development of consorts of instruments, including the violins. Jewish family ensembles then emigrated from Italy to other musical centers, sometimes travelling under secret identities or under false pretenses, and thereby spreading the mystique, and also the music, of the violin.

Ensemble Braccio recreates the sound of professional renaissance violin bands by reviving a lost tradition of ornamentation and improvisation. The five-part texture for this program presents a warm and varied sound that changes with the music: from somber to light, from contrapuntal to homophonic, and from peaceful to lively.


Stravaganze e Sprezzatura: Virtuosity and spectacle in the Renaissance

In the 16th and 17th centuries ornament covered everything. Very rarely was a building built, a suit of clothes made, or a piece of music performed without decoration. The general view was that grace, beauty and complexity were what made life interesting, and that bareness and plainness were simply boring.

Thus were many pieces of music composed that include incredibly virtuosic embellishments, and many more written that provided a basis for obligitory improvised ornamentation. This concert includes elaborate and wild music for voice and violins that even Paganini would have found challenging.

To round out the concert, Ensemble Braccio has included some of the most spectacular violin music from the period, including Carlo Farina's Capriccio Stravaganze, with its imitations of cats and dogs, a military band and a church organ...


Canti Ebraici: The hebrew motets and consort music of Salamone Rossi

The 33 motets (Hashirim asher lish’lomo, or The Songs of Solomon) published by Salamone Rossi in 1622 are the first polyphonic musical works with a Hebrew text. With a selection of texts ranging from psalms to prayers, the music was written in a variety of styles in 3 to 8 parts.

Aside from being unique in Renaissance Jewish music, these motets were composed by a master who could hold his own in the gentile world; he was already famous for his madrigals, (he was a contemporary of Monteverdi and de Wert in Mantua,) and his instrumental works are high points of the late Renaissance style.

This concert presents a selection from the Hebrew songs as well as 4-part violin consort music by Rossi.