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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

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Guillaume de MACHAUT (c1300-1377)
Ma fin est mon commencement...- Rondeau 14 [1'40]
Moulte sui de bonne heure nee -Virelai 37 [2'25]
Dame, mon cuer m'emportes -Virelai 32 [1'38]
Sanz couer m'en vois -Ballade 17 [1'45]
Ha! Fortune -Motet 8 [1'34]
Guillaume DUFAY (c1400-1474)

Se la face ay pale [1'52]
Ce jour l'an voudray joye mener [1'43]
Bon jour, bon mois, bon an et bonne estraine [1'39]
Par droit je puis bien complaindre et gemir [2'00]
Craindre vous vueil, doulce dame de pris [1'24]
Adieu ces bons vins de Lannoys [3'05]
J'attendray tant qu'il vous playra [1'32]
Adieu m'amour, adieu ma joye [4'07]
Malheureulx couer, que vieulx tu faire? [3'49]
Alma redemptoris Mater [2'58]
Vergena bella, che di sol vestita [3'26]
Josquin DES PRES (c1450-1521)

De profundis clavami [6'30]
Gloria (Missa Pange Lingua) [4'18]
Sanctus (Missa Hercules dux Ferrarie) [5'22]
Louis Thiry, organ
Rec. Chapelle de l'hopital Charles-Nicolle de Rouen, May-June 2004 DDD


On the face of it this is a crazily complicated conglomerate of some of the most beautiful early polyphony of the 14th and 15th centuries, played on a French Classical organ from the first half of the 18th century, by a modern-day organist. Astonishingly, the organist in question, Louis Thiry, manages to pull it off.

"Why play such decidedly vocal pieces on the organ?" writes Thiry, "I can only offer the following answer: I like the music and I like the instrument". Here the idea of making a CD of early vocal transcriptions for organ was one born of fantasy, rather than cold logic. Its success can be put down to the quality of the instrument on one hand, and Thiry's intelligent use of it on the other. The organ was built in 1732 by Lefebure and contains both earlier and later pipework, having been restored in 1985.

The character is very typically that of a mid-period French Classical organ, not quite yet with the panache of Cliquot's later work, but somehow with that tonal ethos which makes de Grigny seem, disappointingly, from a different world. In truth, his music was from a different world despite our having become so accustomed to it being played on this sort of organ - in this case built thirty years after his death.

My biggest problem with the present recording is one of temperament. Just as de Grigny loses so much from not being played in meantone, Dufay and Machaut lose a lot from not being played in Pythagorian tuning. Not for nothing does the earliest keyboard music so extensively feature, like most of the vocal music here, pure fifths.

On the other hand, Thiry uses the organ cleverly, often deploying 18th century registration formulas typical for the genre of the instrument. Dufay's three-part counterpoint sounds very well when played with a trio registration of cornet/cromorne/pedal flute! In Josquin's four-part writing, Francois Menissier lends a helping-hand.

This recording is so original and idiosyncratically effective, that I have to recommend it. If you are looking for something highly original, you won't be disappointed. And while 52 minutes of music seems rather stingy, the programme ends just before the novelty-factor wears out and the listener has had enough ...

Chris Bragg

The Hortus Catalogue

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