Music: Exploring a Lost Continent

Come hear the sackbut, shawm and Medici Philharmonic

The period before Bach was long the Atlantis of musical history: an entire realm sunk into oblivion, remembered only in legend. The poets, painters and architects of the time—roughly the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance—had been gloriously gifted; it stood to reason that the musicians had been too. Yet there was scant record of what their work sounded like. The scores that survived were in archaic, sometimes cryptic notation. The original instruments—for instance, the sackbut, a precursor of the trombone, and the shawm, a sort...

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