Paris 1200: Pérotin and Léonin - Chant and Polyphony from 12th Century France
Breves dies hominis [2:44]
Virtutum thronus frangitur [2:31]
Pange melos lacrimosum [3:44]
Te sanctum dominum [8:36]
Ave Maria fons letitie [1:28]
Aver virgo virginum [2:29]
Olim sudor Herculis [7:55]
Condimentum nostre spei [5:36]
Sic mea fata [2:00]
Mundus vergens [2:42]
Mens fidem - Encontre - In odorem [5:39]
Gaude Maria virgo [9:13]
Veris ad imperia [1:31]
O curas hominum [5:12]
Procurans odium [2:04]
Diffusa est gratia [4:48]
Veste nuptiali [3:08]
Mors vite propitia [2:32]
Lionheart (Jeffrey Johnson, Lawrence Lipnik, Kurt-Owen Richards, John Olund, Richard Porterfield, Stephen Rosser)
rec. Leominster Priory, 18-22 August 1997. DDD
NIMBUS NI 5547 [73:54]
Lionheart are a kind of thinking (wo)man's The Priests, with the added asset of being able to sing beautifully. This was their second and last recording for Nimbus, first released in 1998 and again in 2003 with identical covers. This was before the group hit the big-time, relatively speaking, and moved on to the Koch International label, subsequently adding a number of 21st century works to their repertory. Their first CD was reviewed here. Nowadays Michael Wenger has replaced Stephen Rosser, but otherwise the line-up is unchanged.
Lionheart's programme here consists of organum, motets and conductus associated with the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris around 1200. Léonin and his successor Pérotin, the two musical giants of this time and place, may or may not be behind some of the music - their names in the album subtitle could be construed with some justification as a little misleading.
Though there are one or two relatively 'upbeat' moments, as with 'Veris ad imperia' and 'Mors vite propitia', the music itself is, not unexpectedly, serene and reflective, even and slow-paced - a CD to listen to for mental relaxation or spiritual or metaphysical rumination, in other words.
Lionheart's six male voices make a fine a cappella ensemble, with attentive articulation, clarity of tone, and above all a splendid team ethic - doubtless born of many years of practice, touring and recording together - providing an appealing vocal blend and blue-ribbon rhythmic awareness. Latin purists need not get excited, though: Lionheart's vowel lengths and consonant articulations are all determinedly Church Latin.
Someone had a bad day when 'Olim sudor Herculis' was recorded - here some of the solo singing is ropy enough to ring the changes - but on the whole, Lionheart, for all the cheesiness of some of their group photos, deserve their plaudits even in this early-days recording. Towards the end of the final track, 'Mors vite propitia', the ensemble quietly exit whilst still singing - a cute, inspired way to round off their impressive performance.
Audio quality is generally very good, though there are one or two minor distortions, sounding like tracing paper buzzing against a comb. The CD booklet is neat and informative, with a slightly pleonastic contextualising essay from Lionheart Jeffrey Johnson and better-written notes on the tracks incorporating an explanation of plainchant-related terminology by another Lionheart, Richard Porterfield. Full Latin texts are thoughtfully provided by Nimbus, with English translations by Porterfield, although an unfortunate side-effect of this generosity is a booklet that is almost too thick to fit under the plastic tabs of the CD case cover - it certainly does not slide in very freely.
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Lionheart's a fine a cappella ensemble … attentive articulation, clarity of tone, and splendid team ethic.