BACK BEFORE BACH, the latest Navona Records release from the Philadelphia-based ‘Renaissance band’ Piffaro, is an exceptional compendium of sixteenth and early seventeenth century German and Franco-Flemish music. As the album’s title suggests, the group of composers Piffaro features can be seen as the precedent for the luminaries of the German baroque era, specifically Johann Sebastian Bach. With BACK BEFORE BACH simultaneously drawing from a wide variety of genres, yet also focusing on a geographically and temporally limited group of composers, Piffaro succeeds wildly in presenting the musical foundation from which Bach and his contemporaries emerged.


Piffaro specializes in historical performance, and they bring a multidimensional approach to the works on this album. First, Piffaro showcases at least a half dozen different types of Renaissance-era instruments on BACK BEFORE BACH, from shawms and dulcians (early oboes and bassoons), to sackbuts (ancestors of the modern trombone), as well as recorders, krumhorns and bagpipes. Second, each set of pieces is arranged differently, sometimes homogenously but more often heterogeneously, featuring a mixture of the instruments described above. This flexible instrumentation is representative of consort-style performance, which defined instrumental music in the sixteenth century.


This is one way BACK BEFORE BACH is a persuasive time capsule; the other lies in the album’s programming, which illustrates many of the important trends in the era’s sacred and secular music. Consider the album’s dance pieces, for instance, especially Michael Praetorius’ “Volta.” Piffaro’s performance transports us to a noble court and through its driving rhythms and percussion accompaniment beckons us to dance. It is also particularly noteworthy that Piffaro includes a set of German popular songs on the album. Vernacular music from this period was rarely written down and, as a result, tends, unfairly, to be lost to history. The inclusion of these popular tunes is a rare and special treat for those who listen to BACK BEFORE BACH and adds valuable detail to Piffaro’s depiction of the musical world of sixteenth century Germany.


The works that most clearly demonstrate the lineage of German music leading up to Bach are the settings of Christ ist erstanden by seven different composers, including Bach himself. Curated brilliantly, these pieces clearly exemplify the evolution of European composers’ approach to harmony during the transition from the Renaissance era to the Baroque. Along these lines, the earliest of these works feature harmony as an important, yet incidental consequence of thick, contrapuntal webs, while – once we get to Praetorious and Bach – the central thematic material is treated with less rhythmic independence, resulting in a generally clearer, more vertically organized musical construction.




This album is a time capsule meant to show the musical precedents that set the stage for German Baroque music, namely the works of J.S. Bach.


Piffaro approaches this album in the manner of a Renaissance consort, meaning they treat instrumentation flexibly and even perform vocal compositions with a solely instrumental ensemble.


Piffaro has received many awards for its contributions to early music, including the Laurette Goldberg ‘Lifetime Achievement Award in Early Music Outreach’ in 2011 and the American Recorder Society ‘Distinguished Achievement Award’ in 2015.







Piffaro, The Renaissance Band


Joan Kimball & Robert Wiemken, Artistic Co-Directors


Grant Herreid – lute, guitar, shawm, recorders, percussion


Priscilla Herreid – shawms, recorders, dulcian, krumhorn


Greg Ingles – sackbut, recorder, krumhorn


Joan Kimball – shawms, recorders, dulcian, bagpipes, krumhorn


Christa Patton – shawm, schalmei, harp, bagpipes, krumhorn


Robert Wiemken – dulcians, shawm, recorders, krumhorn, douçaine, percussion


Guest Artists


Adam Bregman – sackbuts, recorder


Daphna Mor – recorders


Mack Ramsey – sackbuts, recorders


Erik Schmalz – sackbut


Recorded January 16-17, 2017 at Christ Church Christiana Hundred

and January 17-19 & March 7 at Immanuel Highlands Episcopal

Church in Wilmington DE


Recording  Sam Ward, Clark Conner


Producing Sam Ward, Joan Kimball, Robert Wiemken


Editing & Mastering Sam Ward


Photography Bill DiCecca & Church Street Studios


Cover art by  Hans Burgkmair

Triumphs of Maximilian, early 16th century woodcuts


Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw

A&R Alex Bourne

Audio Director Jeff LeRoy

Engineering Manager Lucas Paquette

Art & Production Director Brett Picknell

Design Ryan Harrison





Los Ministriles

In The New World














Waytes (NV5823)














Piffaro (NV5809)

Release Date: July 14, 2017

Catalog #: NV6106





Christ ist erstanden



1  Setting à 3


Anonymous, Glogauer Liederbuch (ca. 1480)



Setting à 4


Heinrich Isaac (1450-1515)



3  Setting à 5


Heinrich Finck (ca.1445 – 1527)



4  Setting à 5


Stephen Mahu (ca.1490 – ca.1591)



5  Setting à 3 “auf Bergreihenweis”


Johann Walther (1527-1578)



Setting à 4 “ad aequales”


Johann Walther



7  Chorale à 4


Michael Praetorius (1571 – 1621)



8  Chorale to BWV 276


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)




Innsbruck, ich muess dich lassen



9  Instrumental fantasy


Arr. Joan Kimball



10  Canon in tenor


Arr. Robert Wiemken



11  Insprugk ick muss dich lassen


Heinrich Isaac



12 Bruder Conrads Tantzmass & Nachtanz


pub. Paul & Bartholomeus Hessen




A solis ortus/Christum will


sollen loben schon



13  Latin Hymn: A solis ortus cardine


Coelius Sedulius (d. 450)



14  A solis ortus cardine


Anonymous (late 15th c.)



15  Motet: Christum wir sollen loben schon


Johann Walther



16  Hymnus: Christum wir sollen loben schon


Johann Walther



17  Chorale: A solis ortus


Michael Praetorius



18  Motet: A solis ortus


Michael Praetorius



19  Canzona: A solis ortus 


Samuel Scheidt (1587 – 1684)



20  Chorale: Christum wir sollen loben schon


Johann Sebastian Bach




A Suite of German dances



21 Intrada


Johann Ghro (1575 – 1627)



22  Passameze


Michael Praetorius



23  Allemande


Samuel Scheidt



24 La Volta


Michael Praetorius




The World of Chromaticism



25 Musica, Dei donum optimi  


Orlande de Lassus (ca.1532 – 1594)



26 Carmina chromatico: Prologue


Orlande de Lassus



27  Mirabile mysterium


Jakob Handl (1550 – 1591)



28  Sybilla Samia


Orlande de Lassus



29  Da pacem, Domine


Melchior Franck (ca. 1579 – 1639)




A Song from Andernach


along the Rhine



30  Melody  


Arr. Joan Kimball



31  Tanndernac


Antoine Brumel (ca. 1460 – 1512 or 1513)



32 Tandernaken op den Rijn 


Pierre Alamire (ca. 1470 – 1536)



33  T’ander naken


Jakob Obrecht (1450 – 1505)



34  Tandernack


Ludwig Senfl (ca.1486 – ca.1543)




Suite of German Dances



35  Ballet des Aveugles  


Arr. Joan Kimball, after Michael Praetorius



36 Padouana


Johann Hermann Schein (1586 – 1630)



37  La Rosette


Michael Praetorius



38 Bransle Simple


Michael Praetorius




Navona Records is the contemporary classical label imprint of audio production house PARMA Recordings. Dedicated to highlighting forward thinking composers and musicians from around the world, the New England-based label's eclectic catalog offers listeners a cross-section of today's up-and-coming innovators in orchestral, chamber, and experimental music.



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