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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger



Music of the Gothic Era
CD 1

Notre Dame Period (c.1160 - c.1250)
2 voice organa

LÉ ONIN

Viderunt Omnes [9.14]
Alleluya Pascha nostrum [5.59]
Gaude Maria Virgo [7.00]
Locus iste [6.02]
4 voice organa

PÉ ROTIN

Viderunt omnes [11.55]
Sederunt principes [11.22]
Ars Antiqua (c.1250 - c.1320)
Motets

ANONYMOUS

Alle, psallite cum luya [1.09]
Amor potest [1.01]
S'on me regarde [2.23]
In mari miserie [1.52]
On parole de batre [1.52]
En mai, quant rosier sont flouri [2.09]
Dominator Domine [1.50]
El mois de mai [1.39]
O mitissima [1.29]
CD 2
ANONYMOUS

Hoquetus I-VII [7.47]: Nuema; Virgo; In seculum longum; In seculum viellatoris; In seculum breve; In seculum d'Amiens longum; In seculum
Petrus DE CRUCE (d. c.1298)

Aucun ont trouvé [3.14]
Adam DE LA HALLE (d.1288)

De ma dame vient [2.26]
J'os bien a m'aime parler [1.50]
ANONYMOUS

La mesnie fauveline [1.17]
Ars Nova (c.1320 - c.1400)
Motets

ANONYMOUS

Quant je le voi [1.02]
Zelus familie [2.53]
Quasi non ministerium [2.43]
Philippe DE VITRY

Impudenter circumivi [3.10]
Cum statua [2.27]
Bernard DE CLUNY

Pantheon abluitur [2.40]
ANONYMOUS

Clap, clap, par un matin [1.29]
Henry Gilles DE PUSIEX

Ida capillorum [4.05]
Rachel plorat filios [1.52]
ANONYMOUS

Lés l'ormel a la turelle [1.51]
O Philippe, Franci qui generis [3.39]
Febus mundo oriens [3.31]
Guillaume DE MACHAUT (c.1300-1377)

Lasse! comment oublieray 4.06]
Qui es promesses [1.56]
Hoquetus David [3.18]
Christe, qui lux es [4.13]
ANONYMOUS

Degentis vita [2.16]
Inter denas deserti meditans [3.17]
Philippe ROYLLART

Rex Karole, Johannis genite [4.22]
James Bowman, Charles Brett, David James: Countertenors
Rogers Covey-Crump, Paul Elliott, Martyn Hill, John Potter: Tenors
Geoffrey Shaw: Bass
The Early Music Consort of London / David Munrow
rec April 1975, Charter House Chapel, Godalming, Surrey, England and Oct 1975, Conway Hall, London, England
DG ARCHIV BLUE 471 731-2 [2CDs: 67.16+72.04]



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To anybody interested in early music, and over the age of about 25, the name of David Munrow will loom large as a formative influence in any listening development. In a career spanning only ten years, Munrow lit the firmament of early music like a comet. From 1966 until his death in 1976 he was a force that almost single-handedly brought medieval and renaissance music out of the closet of musicology and onto the mainstream concert circuit. The energy of the man was, by all accounts, incredible, and it is a testament to that very energy that his recorded legacy is so vast. This spans not only the dozen or so recordings (most of which were large collections of multiple LPs covering, in depth, specific repertoires, eras or genres), but also a book on medieval and renaissance instruments. Then again there were hundreds of live concerts. Probably even more influential were over five hundred editions of BBC Radio 3’s "Pied Piper" in which this entirely self-taught phenomenon researched, wrote and presented programmes on a bewildering range of musical topics, by no means restricted to early music.

It is over twenty-five years since Munrow's death and yet only in recent years have the recordings begun to be re-issued on CD. Many of them are still not available. Thus, this re-issue on Archiv's new "Blue" label is all the more welcome for this was Munrow's last major recording project and has long been considered as probably his finest achievement in the studio. In 1976, when this recording was first released, medieval music was by no means unknown, but then neither was it standard concert repertoire. It was still likely to be viewed as an engaging eccentricity. It is remarkable that these discs still sound so fresh and lively, even in the light of a quarter century of advance in our understanding of the performance traditions surrounding this repertoire. Obviously, Munrow was approaching this music from the perspective of an instrumentalist, and the use of instruments in these performance is somewhat more prominent than is fashionable today. Indeed, it must be admitted that Munrow's preference for the doubling of vocal lines with bells gets overdone at times. However, the instruments do give a wide range of colours to the music that, even if not so historically "correct" as we tend to be now, make, nonetheless, for a varied aural diet and certainly add to the variety of the programme.

The booklet that accompanies this re-issue does not include much in the way of information about the works recorded, but it does include an illuminating essay by Daniel Leech-Wilkinson about the way in which Munrow went about conceiving and bringing to fruition this type of project. Leech-Wilkinson's most perspicacious point, and one that defines the reason for the enormous success of this recording, is that Munrow had an uncanny gift for finding and engaging great singers. It was this feature more than any other that made the Early Music Consort of London such a cut above the norm for its time. Indeed, looking at the list of singers we see what amounts to a roll-call of the major names of the current English early music scene. These singers were all capable of performing this repertoire with the technical assurance that makes the difference between the "amusingly eccentric" and the "perspective-altering" reception of a performance. Indeed, it is interesting to notice that amongst the singers are David James, John Potter and Rogers (curiously always mis-spelt as Roger) Covey-Crump, three of the four singers of the Hilliard Ensemble who were to become the most obvious successors to Munrow’s group in this sort of repertoire. With the Hilliard Ensemble these three recorded the great Pérotin four-voiced organa (Viderunt omnes and Sederunt principes) in the late 1980s for ECM. It is remarkable how much of the quality of the performance recorded on this disc is still apparent in the Hilliard’s later recording. It is these two organa of Pérotin that stood out when the collection was released, and they are still the high-point today. These mighty four-part works were already famous, but this performance laid bare the inner architecture of Pérotin’s music in a way that had not been attempted before. It was only the quality of the singers, both technically and interpretatively, that allowed this to be the case. These are ‘defining’ performances.

There are many other things of great beauty in this collection. The seven instrumental Hocketts that open CD 2 are notable, as is the wonderful performance of Machaut’s four-voiced motet Christe, qui lux es, with slide trumpet and tenor shawm as well as two voices. It would have been easy for a collection like this to centre on the well known names of Léonin, Pérotin and Machaut, and yet Munrow’s conception was more all-encompassing than that. Certainly Philippe de Vitry and Adam de la Halle are names known to most people with any scholarly interest in this period, and yet Bernard de Cluny and Petrus de Cruce would probably, even today, be regarded as obscure, at best. In attempting to give a complete overview of the chosen period Munrow allied a scholarly approach of great depth and detail to a manner of interpretation and performance that would allow the music to live in its contemporary time. That the recording allows the music to live again in our time is a sure testament to the quality and rigour of Munrow’s approach. This collection remains a fascinating document both as a recreation of early music in wonderful performances, and as a reminder of that most exciting period of early music re-discovery in the mid-1970s. Without a doubt, this collection deserves a place in the library of anybody who claims an interest in early music.

Peter Wells

 



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