Exit Rosa: Chants for Nuns from the medieval Manuscript Q.11 of Bologna (13th-14th Century)
Ensemble Korymbos/Alessandra Fiori
rec. 5 October 2009, Cathedral of St. François de Sales, Chambéry, France. DDD
TACTUS TC280002 [54:14]
When people think of medieval music they usually think of monks and Gregorian chant. In fact, there was as much music at that time in convents as there was in monasteries. Unfortunately few of the collections of chant specifically for women’s voices has survived. This new disc presents excerpts from such a manuscript in the International Museum and Music Library of Bologna. It is the only chant collection for women’s voices to have survived in all of Italy.
The works in the Bologna Q.11 manuscript range from traditional chants to organae to complex polyphonic pieces. Most are liturgical works but there are also less formal religious songs dedicated to the Virgin Mary. As one would expect in music for a convent setting, many of the liturgical pieces are also dedicated to Mary.
Several of the pieces in the Bologna Q.11 manuscript exist nowhere else. The most valuable feature of this disc is the clarity as well as severity of sound with which familiar works appear when sung by a chorus of women’s voices. This effect is only heightened by the magnificent acoustic of the Cathedral of Saint François de Sales in the French town of Chambéry - an ideal venue for this type of sound.
Ensemble Korymbos consists of female singers from both sides of the border in the Savoye/Torino area. They were brought together as part of the French-Italian Carta Bianca cultural project. The recording is a live one dating from the group’s actual concert on 5 October 2009 in the Chambéry cathedral. The recording’s origins in a specific occasion probably explains some slackness in Ms. Fiori’s control and in the overall ensemble. However Ms. Fiori usually has her performers under firm control and, as indicated above, their overall sound is most impressive. Unfortunately, there are no translations of the original religious texts and the commentary is rather sparse. However, for those interested in early music, this disc sheds light on an all-too neglected aspect of the music of the 13th-14th centuries.
William Kreindler
An unusual view of medieval music in a live performance.