My Fayre Ladye – Images of Women in Medieval England
Sarum Chant (pub. 1502) – Quam pulcra est [3:02]: Ibo michi ad montem mrre [2:16]: Salve regina misericordie [6:41]: Tota pulcra est [2:26]: Anima mea liquefacta est [1:47] Beata Dei genitrix [1:39]
John DUNSTABLE (c.1390-1453)
Quam pulcra est [2:20]
Who shall have my fayre ladye? [1:55]
If I had wytt for to endyght [3:04]
Up Y Arose [2:51]
And I war a maydyn [1:39]
William CORNYSH (d.1523)
Adew mes amours [2:10]
A robyn, gentyl robin [2:46]
Blow thi horne hunter [3;13]
Richard PYGOTT (b. c.1485)
Quid petis o fili? [8:39]
John BROWNE (fl.1490)
O regina Mundi clara [13:41]
rec. June 1996, Concert Hall, Nimbus Foundation
Texts and translations included
NIMBUS NI 5512 [60:09]
This disc dates from 1996 and was one of the first opportunities that British audiences had to appreciate the art of the American vocal ensemble, Lionheart. They constructed something of a concept album in this disc for Nimbus, one predicated on the idea — quite loose in some respects — of ‘Images of Women in Medieval England’.
Interspersed throughout the disc one will find movements from the Sarum Chant, the prevailing Catholic plainsong in use in England until the time of the Reformation. It serves as the disc’s spinal cord in the exploration of the various types of image summoned up by Lionheart: The Beloved, The Unfathomable, The Maternal, The Desired and The Triumphant. Into each of these specific categories one will find music by composers such as William Cornysh, John Dunstable, Richard Pygott and John Browne, as well as the expected variety of anonymous texts and settings.
Lionheart is notable for the purity of its articulation and for the tonal blend it cultivates. This allows the six singers to respond equally to the Sarum Chant as to the bawdier settings. The quiet and contemplative Quam pulcra est from the chant — a text used by Dowland, by the way, in the sole contribution from him in this disc — is as persuasive as the wicked double entendres of Cornysh’s Blow thi horne hunter. Those who know only this composer’s more austere sacred settings will be amazed by the filth which he takes such obvious pleasure in depicting.
But it’s also Cornysh who provides some of the disc’s most moving utterances in Adew mes amours. In this respect, though, is the longest setting, by John Browne, that perhaps resonates the longest. O regina Mundi clara is a fourteen minute setting of considerable accomplishment, a structure of artful integrity, and the culmination of the qualities of textual fidelity and architectural probity that Lionheart displays throughout. Fittingly, only the Beata Dei genitrix follows it.
This fine disc, which includes texts and translations, has worn very well over the last decade and a half.
Jonathan Woolf
This fine disc has worn very well over the last decade and a half.