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Jerusalem: Vision of Peace
ANONYMOUS (Medieval)
Luto carens et latere
[3:49]
Jerusalem! grant damage me fais1 [3:50]
Jerusalem accipitur [4:51]
Te Deum [4:58]
O levis aurula! [1:58]
Hac in die Gedeonis [4:12]
GUIOT de DIJON (fl. 1215-1225)
Chanterai pour mon coraige
1 [6:14]
ANONYMOUS (Medieval)
In salvatoris / Ce fu en tres douz tens / In veritate / Veritatem
[2:47]
Hec dies quam fecit Dominus [2:03]
Pascha nostrum [3:21]
Mass for Easter Day in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, c.1130: Gospel ‘In illo tempore’ ‘Sequencia sancti Evangelii secundum Marcum’2 [2:34]
Veri vitis germine [4:27]
HUON de St QUENTIN
Jerusalem se plaint et li pais
1 [5:32]
ANONYMOUS (Medieval)
Luget Rachel iterum
[1:49]
Invocantes Dominum / Psalm ‘Deus, qui venerunt’ [7:20]
Congaudet hodie celestis curia [2:29]
Abbess HILDEGARD of Bingen (1098-1179)
O Jerusalem
1 [9:35]
Catherine King1 (soprano); Leigh Nixon2 (tenor)
Gothic Voices/Christopher Page
rec. Boxgrove Priory, West Sussex, UK, 15th-17th January, 1998. DDD
Texts and translations included.
HYPERION CDA67039 [71:49]
Experience Classicsonline

Why am I reviewing a recording made and released more than a decade ago? Firstly, because it predated Musicweb International, so we have never reviewed it. Secondly, because it recently appeared on Hyperion’s ‘please buy me’ list, indicating that sales had been very slack. Thirdly, because, as regular readers will be aware, I rate all the recordings made by Gothic Voices very highly indeed, present CD included, so that neglect of any of their recordings is deeply regrettable.

The music on the present CD, most of it anonymous and from Northern France during the time of the Crusades, relates to the medieval belief that the name Jerusalem meant ‘city of piece’ from the Semitic root s-l-m. Though this etymology is no longer widely accepted, it had great significance for medieval Christianity, where the responsory rogate quae ad pacem sunt Hierusalem et abundantia diligentibus te (pray for the peace of Jersusalem; they shall prosper that love thee, Ps. 121 [122]) was almost synonymous with praying for the peace of Christendom.

For the modern listener the appeal lies in the sheer beauty of all the music here. If you listen for no other reason than to round off a hectic day at work, that’s fine. I hope, though, that even if you start with that motive you’ll come to appreciate the music and performances at a deeper level, too. Some of the pieces are in plainchant and the other settings are equally soothing - but not, I should add, in any sense boring.

Only two of the pieces can be assigned to named composers and two of those are obscure - we don’t even know a floruit date for Huon de St Quentin. Don’t let that put you off in the slightest: all the music here is more than amenable to the modern ear and the closing piece by Abbess Hildegard well up to the high standard of her music to which Gothic Voices introduced us with their seminal recording A Feather on the Breath of God (CDA66039). Where they led others have followed, but their interpretations of Hildegard’s music remain special and the present recording of O Jerusalem (tr.15) is no exception. It’s especially effective immediately after the plainchant psalm Deus, qui venerunt (tr.13) and the plain setting of Congaudent hodie (tr.14). Where some other performers add instrumental accompaniment to Hildegard’s music and other music of the period, Christopher Page believes the practice to be inauthentic. Catherine King’s beautiful solo, unaccompanied rendition of O Jerusalem here certainly provides strong support for Page’s practice. Hildegard puts all the variety into her settings, without any need of instrumental support. The only accompaniment on the CD comes from the tolling bell in the background of Te Deum (tr.4)

That all the performances are excellent goes almost without saying, as does the fact that the recording throughout is first class. Christopher Page’s notes are, as usual with Hyperion, lavish, scholarly and approachable, as befits one who bestrides the twin worlds of music and literature. One small discrepancy concerns the description of Catherine King as ‘alto’ in the CD booklet and insert and as ‘soprano’ on the Hyperion website.

Another Gothic Voices recording, recently, and equally surprisingly putting in an appearance on Hyperion’s endangered list, A Song for Francesca: Music in Italy, 1330-1430, is also highly recommendable (GAW21286), especially as it won the Gramophone Early Music Award. Neither will remain available at Hyperion’s give-away price of £5.60 by the time that you read this review - my buying them removed them from the list - but they are well worth buying even at the normal price. I had long meant to obtain them both but never got round to it; don’t make the same mistake.

Let me also take this opportunity to sing the praises of some of Gothic Voices recordings being reissued by Hyperion in their budget-price Helios series. Of the five CDs which they made with the generic title The Voices of England and France, Volumes 1-3 have already been reissued - see reviews of Volume 1 and Volume 2 - and the other two must surely follow soon. You’ll find a review of Volume 3 (CDH55283, concentrating on the music of Binchois and his contemporaries) in my October 2009 Download Roundup. You’ll hardly be surprised to find that, if I recommend Vision of Peace and Song for Francesca so strongly at full price, I’m even more enthusiastic about these and other Helios reissues. Meanwhile, don’t let any of their earlier treasures of the back catalogue ever again languish unwanted.

Brian Wilson 

 


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