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CD: Crotchet AmazonUK AmazonUS

The Study of Love
Pour vous servir
[3:27]; Puis que l'aloe ne fine [1:51]; Jour a jour la vie [3:35]
Guillaume de MACHAUT (c. 1300-1377)
Dame, je suis cilz / Fins cuers
Anonymous Combien que j'aye [1:46]; Marticius qui fu [3:50]; Renouveler me feist [2:42]; Trop plus / Biaute paree/Je ne suis [1:25]; Fist on, dame [2:07]; Il me convient guerpir [1:54] Tres bonne et belle [2:22]
Anonymous Le ior (Faenza codex) [3:22]; En la maison Dedalus [3:03]; Combien que j'aye [1:40]; La grant biaute [2:10]
PYCARD (fl c. 1410)
Guillaume de MACHAUT
Se mesdisans [4:37]
En esperant
[3:28]; Ay las! Quant je pans [3:42]
Guillaume de MACHAUT
Dame, je vueil endurer [2:28]
SOLAGE (fl late 14th century)
Le basile
Gothic Voices: Margaret Philpot (alto); Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor); Andrew Tusa (tenor); Julian Podger (tenor); Leigh Nixon (tenor); Stephen Charlesworth (baritone); Donald Greig (baritone); Andrew Lawrence-King (medieval harp); Christopher Page (lute and director)
rec. Boxgrove Priory, West Sussex, 29 April-1 May 1992. DDD
Experience Classicsonline

Among the most developed and beautiful musics in the history of the world was the French motet. During the high medieval period composers such as Guillaume de Machaut wrote complex, intertwined, ethereal melodies with rhythmic intricacies that rival anything ever created. Simultaneously these works were focused on a melodic and lyrical timelessness that has stood the test of the centuries. The sacred motets were written to invoke the glory of God and the secular ones were created to glorify in sound the courtly ladies that were the poet's inspiration. So successful were the composers that, even for those who don't understand medieval French, the simple sound of the words evokes the expressed moods of love.

The songs selected here are brilliant gemstones of the genre. The majority of them are a capella duets and trios. Where we know who the composers are they are among the giants of medieval music. Indeed, Guillaume de Machaut is considered by many to be the single most important composer of the 14th century. Most of the songs included here have several musical lines swirling around each other. The remainder are either instrumental or use a vocal continuo to form harmonies while one or two other vocalists sing above the lower, more static harmonies. Unlike baroque music these pieces do not feel highly constructed. Rather they feel as if they are organically composed, with the various parts simply being brought together because they would be incomplete if they stood apart. This is, obviously, the goal of a master composer, and here the music lives on long after the musicians have crumbled to dust.

Such an appraisal would be an impossibility without exquisite performance. Simply spoken, Gothic Voices are among the best at bringing these sounds back to life. The seven vocalists sing beautifully together, playing off each other and flawlessly locking into the interwoven sonic tapestry. The lute and medieval harp, when played well, are exquisite to listen to. Gothic Voices managed to find two modern masters of these instruments.

Even the packaging is well done, thoughtfully prepared, and helpful for the listener. The director writes briefly about the selections and about the period they represent. The original texts and translations are provided side by side in the booklet and the performances are notated so that one can easily reference which performers sing or play in each work.

This is simply a masterpiece. In particular Pycard's “Gloria”, Machaut's “Dame, je suis cilz/Fins cuers”, and “Jour a jour la vie” are gorgeous and also stand out as fabulous performances. Every piece is in fact well done and has been selected for its musical worth. The collection was lovingly created and masterfully performed. This will suit any lover of medieval music, or indeed most lovers of music in general, very well indeed.

Patrick Gary

see also review by Brian Wilson


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