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The Castle of Fair Welcome: Courtly songs of the later 15th century
Robert MORTON (c.1430-c.1479)
Le souvenir de vous me tue
bcdf [3:15]

Johannes REGIS (c.1425-c.1496)
Puisque ma damme/Je m’en voy
abcdf [3:06]

Las je ne puis nullement durer

Que pourroit plus bdg [5:20]
John BEDYNGHAM (d.1459/60)
Myn hertis lust
hi [
Gilles BINCHOIS (c.1400-1460)
Dueil angoisseux
bcef [8:12]

Guillaume DUFAY (c.1400-1474)
Ne je ne dors
bdf [4:52]

En amours n’a si non bien
b [2:14]

Johannes VINCENET de BRUECQUET (d.before1480)
La pena sin ser sabida
bdef [2:24]

Mi ut re ut
(Venise) i [4:03]

Plus j’ay le monde regardé
acd [3:26]

Walter FRYE (d.1475)
So ys emprinted hi [
? CHARLES THE BOLD, Duke of Burgundy (1433-1477)
Ma dame, trop vous mesprenés
acf [
ENRIQUE (d.1488)
Pues serviçio vos desplaze
bcef [1:59]

Gothic Voices (Gill Ross (soprano)a; Margaret Philpot (contralto)b; Rogers Covey- Crump (tenor)c; Mark Ainsley (tenor)d; Leigh Nixon (tenor)e; Peter Harvey (baritone); Patrick Ardagh-Walter (bass)g)/Christopher Page (medieval harp); with Christopher Wilson (lute)i
rec. St Jude’s Church, Golders Green, London, 16-17 October 1985. DDD.
Booklet with notes in English and French, texts and translations


This CD is a sequel to The Garden of Zephirus which Gothic Voices recorded a year earlier. That collection was also recently reissued on Helios (CDH55289), and I have recently given it an enthusiastic welcome. Where the earlier recording dealt with the courtly music of the early fifteenth-century, this disc covers the latter part of that century, the only overlapping composer being Guillaume Dufay, who is also the best-known composer in either programme. Though there are other familiar names here, they are interspersed with the less well-known and several pieces by Anon. 

Whereas the linking principle of The Garden of Zephirus was youth, this programme concentrates on the music which could have been heard in the courts of the rich and great, especially the court of the Dukes of Burgundy, whom Binchois and Morton both served. One of the pieces, ma dame trop vous mesprenés, is attributed to Charles, Duke of Burgundy, himself. As Christopher Page notes in the booklet, the duke appears on this basis to have been no mean musician. The Burgundians largely avoided the ravages of the Hundred Years War between England and France and the Wars of the Roses, which enabled them to prosper and to employ the services of the best Francophone and English musicians, as well as affording the aristocracy the leisure to compose and perform. Page cites the example of the ‘chevalier vert’ in the fifteenth-century romance Cleriadus et Meliadice, who celebrates a tournament by performing a rondeau in the Great Hall. A better-known example is Tristan who excels in harping as well as being the greatest expert on the rules of hunting. 

The title of the disc relates to that most influential of medieval secular texts, Le Roman de la Rose, where the poet is accompanied in the walled garden of Love by Bel Acceuil or Fair Welcome. From a high-walled garden to a castle is a small step and the attractive cover, from a 15th century manuscript in the Bodleian, shows the lover being introduced by Sweet Look to Fair Welcome outside just such a castle, albeit an improbably small one. Christopher Page’s notes also link the castle with that described in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – slightly anachronistically, since that poem dates from the late 14th century. 

Perhaps aware that The Garden of Zephirus might have sounded a little unvaried to modern ears, a number of instrumental pieces are interspersed on this CD, played by Page himself on the harp or by Christopher Wilson on the lute, or by both. The vocal items are performed unaccompanied, in line with Page’s own academic research: he does allow two accompanied vocal items on The Garden of Zephirus. 

All the music is attractive and the performances first-rate. As far as highlights are concerned, the Helios catalogue on the Hyperion website offers Real and mp3 samples of Morton’s Le souvenir and Dufay’s Je ne dors and these would be good places to start (http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/helios_page.asp). Listen to them and you will get some idea of the quality of the performances; the recording, of course, sounds much better than anything the web can offer – clear and immediate without being too close. The Morton piece opens the CD and makes an immediately favourable impression. Page’s notes single out the Dufay and another Morton piece, Plus j’ay le monde regardé, as adornments to any courtly scene. Binchois’s Dueil angoisseux only just qualifies as ‘later 15th century’ but it was certainly well worth including. 

I can offer no stronger recommendation than to say that I have owned the original Hyperion version of this CD since soon after its first appearance and I have played it more frequently than anything of this period in my collection. In contrast with normal practice for some labels, the insert booklet expands on the original, adding the composers’ dates and an illustration of a royal hall which, I think, graced the original LP but not the CD. The font employed in the booklet is more user-friendly than before. The playing time is even shorter than on the Zephirus disc, but that is my only criticism. 

If you buy this CD and fall under its charm, you will want to seek out as much as possible by these composers. You will also probably wish to investigate other Gothic Voices reissues on Helios: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (CDH55273) and The Spirits of England and France (CDH55281) have also been reissued and I understand that others will probably follow.

Brian Wilson




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