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Lorelei Ensemble/Beth Willer
rec. 2016, Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, USA
Texts and translations included
SONO LUMINUS DSL-92226 CD/BD-A [48:27]

Lorelei Enseble’s artistic director Beth Willer has written a long introduction to the booklet which stresses many ideas of ‘impermanence’ and of the function of music. The core of this release, it seems to me, concerns the exploration of music of differing periods in ways that allow for improvisatory elements – a disc, in other words, that admits lack of fixity as a sine qua non. It’s this that makes it different from a number of other discs that explore music of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and juxtapose that repertoire with contemporary music, as this one assuredly does. The interpretative stance, therefore, is a fusion of historical research and informed decision making.

That the underlying approach seems to be one of the transient nature of musical performance, it shouldn’t perhaps come as too great a shock to realise that the earliest music here is performed in a way that may well strike some listeners as robust, notwithstanding its technical excellence. The ensemble’s vibrato usage is far richer, and warmer, than is to be found in other performances of Dufay, or in performances usually encountered these days of twelfth century music; there is a piece from a Spanish Codex of around 1160-73. This gives the music a strikingly fuller sound and given the ensemble of three sopranos, three mezzos and two contraltos the results are richer across the entire range; it’s a question of sound production and aesthetic. This applies, too, to the music from the Turin codex, of which some has the most remarkable, consoling breadth, and from Dufay’s motets which flow with great eloquence

The spine of the programme is Peter Gilbert’s Tsukimi, which is interspersed throughout allowing for conjunctions both with Takemitsu’s Vocalises from Wind Horse but also with Dufay. The effect is, something of a consonance in sound that gives the disc a sense of musical time-travelling; perhaps a tacit sense that it is not possible ever to be sure how Dufay’s music was sung but also to promote the idea of consonance between the time periods. Added to this is the striking modernity of Dufay’s Flos florum, which also aligns it with Takemitsu’s exercise in vocalise and Gilbert’s Tsukimi, or ‘Moon Viewing’, which itself seems to evoke Takemitsu’s aesthetic at salient points.

The music can be heard on conventional CD or on Blu-ray. It’s important to note that three of the four Turin motets are apparently new to disc.

So, a disc with cross-currents and lineages, sung in a way that reflects on both simultaneously. The Lorelei Ensemble is an outstanding one, tonally and technically; whether one accepts the premise of their performance is a matter for the individual listener.

Jonathan Woolf

Track list
Codex Calixtinus (c.1160-1173): Portum in ultimo [2:24]
Turin Codex J.II.9 (15th century): Pour ce que point fu de la amere espine/A toi vierge me represente [4:01]
Turin Codex: Qui patris atris honoris/Paraclite spiritus [3:08]
Turin Codex: Par grant soif clere fontainne / Dame de tout pris [4:13]
Turin Codex: Sanctus in eternis/Sanctus et ingenitus [3:37]
Toru TAKEMITSU (1930-1996)
Wind Horse (1962): Vocalise No. 1 [2:07]: Vocalise II [3:19]
Peter GILBERT (b.1975)
Tsukimi: Ama no hara [0:46]; Akikaze ni [0:48]; Tsuki mireba [1:15]; Nageke tote [1:33]: Wata no hara [1:56]: Kokoro ni mo [1:01]: Hototogisu [0:53]: Natsu no yow a [1:36]
Guillaume DUFAY (1397-1474)
Rite maiorem Jacobum canamus/Arcibus summis miseri recluse [4:09]
O proles Hispaniae, cantilena motet for 4 voices [4:48]
Flos florum [3:34]
Apostolo glorioso (1426) [3:07]


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