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Guillaume de MACHAUT (1300-1377)
Fortune’s Child
The Orlando Consort
Gais et jolie Ballade (5.20]
Dous amis, oy mon complaint Ballade [5.51]
Dame, je veuil endure Virelai [2.41]
Trop plus bele/ Biaute paree de valeur/ Je ne sui mie Motet [1.53]
Douce dame, tant com vivray Rondeau [3.12];
Dou mal qui moa longuement Virelai [2.59]
Comment puet on miex ses maus dire Rondeau [3.54]
Dame, vostre dous viare Virelai [5.37]
Hé ! mors /Fine Amour/Quare non sum mortuus Motet [2.27]
Dame, mon cuer enportez Virelai [5.15]
Riches d’amour Ballade [5.19]
Helas !pour quoy virent/Corde mesto/Libera me Motet [3.17]
Puis que ma dolour agree Virelai [6.42];
Honte, paour, doubtance – Ballade [6.12]
rec. Parish Church of St. John the Baptist, Loughton, UK, 2016
HYPERION CDA68195 [60.40]

This is now the fifth release in the Orlando Consort’s complete survey of Machaut and the title given to it emphasises the role played in Machaut’s writings and music by ‘luck’ (fortuna) and the ability of a man to love and receive love from a woman of his choice; a woman who might disdain his affections or be socially above his level. The picture on the cover shows the wheel of fortune clasped by a blind, young woman with four men of various ranks and professions being tossed around its spokes. This verse, curiously translated from the Virelai Dame, je veuil endure sums it up: “Lady, I intend to suffer with, / As long as I can endure, / Thinking no ugly thoughts, / My ardour”. It also seems that many of these songs are little known.

As the late Professor Gilbert Reaney says in his Oxford study of Machaut (OUP 1971) “Biographically, much information can be derived from “Le Voir Dit” which can be dated between 1361-65. “This so-called true story of the ageing poet’s love for a nineteen year old girl, Péronne d’Armentières has an air of authenticity, and in any case sheds much light on the composer’s ideas and methods of composition”. And so it is that the CD takes its title from the memorable, monophonic virelai Puis que mas dolour agree with its opening lines “Since my suffering pleases/The woman who is fortune’s child………”.

As with the previous releases, we are treated to a variety of the ‘formes-fixe’, that is Virelai, Ballade. Motet and Rondeau. Some pieces are for one voice, others for two or three. In some pieces the textures are very active and complex, as in Dou mal qui m’a longuement, and others are simple like the monophonic virelai Douce dame, tant com vivray which is one of those typical Machaut melodies that once heard a couple of times, sticks in the brain.

There are also three motets, including the three-part polytexted Hé ! Mors/Fine Amour/Quare non sum mortuus. In this the loved one has died and is bitterly lamented: “Death, death how I hate you”. I have to say, though, that Donald Greig’s vibrato rather takes away the clarity of the texture .

One of the problems for me, and it is probably personal, is that the Orlando Consort often seem to lack flexibility either of pulse, dynamics or expression. I feel that they drive the music forward in a very modern way. Now, needless to say I don’t know how Machaut intended his music to sound but I’m not sure that the secular pieces should sound like the sacred ones. We really have no sacred ones here of course but, if we had, then would the Orlando consort make vocally colouristic adjustments.?. Anyway, I’ll move on.

What makes this fifth disc especially pleasing however is the variety moving between monophonic songs such as Dame, je vueil endure, pieces for two voices as in Dame, mon cuer enportez and the more common. three-part pieces, and these are divided up between the four singers. Tempi between tracks are also interestingly variable. One particular highlight for me is the mellifluous performance of the plaintive Riches d’amour. I thought that the Gothic Voices recording of it (Hyperion CDA665) was unbeatable but this one catches the mood equally well.

As ever with Hyperion, the recording is of a high quality and the booklet beautifully produced with an excellent essay by Tamsyn Mahoney-Steel and mostly well translated texts.

When I reviewed the earlier disc, The Dart of Love I described myself as being “smitten” by the sound world that the Orlando Consort create, their sense of ensemble and intelligent balance. But, although I would still whole-heartedly recommend this disc as a good investment, especially if you are unfamiliar with Machaut, I am now less certain about the sound the Orlandos make, as I mention above. Perhaps I am just getting spoiled by the marvellous regularity of fine recordings of medieval music, which are becoming available. It will ultimately be an extraordinary privilege to have the complete oeuvre available in fine CD recordings. The complete works will also soon be print in an edition by Yolanda Plumley. I wonder how many more discs there are still to come?

Gary Higginson

 

 




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