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Leuven chansonnier v2 PAS1109
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Leuven Chansonnier Volume 2: Ou beau chastel
Sollazzo Ensemble/Anna Danilevskaļa
rec. 2020/21, Antwerp, Belgium

I missed Volume 1 of what aims to record all fifty compositions in the Leuven Chansonnier, a small manuscript discovered in 2015 at an auction. Some of the pieces, including four anonymous ones on this disc, were previously unknown. The disc bears the title of the longest work here.

In this recording, the Sollazzo Ensemble consist of one counter-tenor and two tenors, plus seven instrumentalists including the group’s director Anna Danilevskaļa. We hear, for example, lutes, shawms, sackbuts and vilhuelas. Some items are performed instrumentally but there are texts of all twelve works. The ensemble ‘orchestrates’ the songs. This is not unusual in many ways, but I wonder how one should feel about counter-tenor Andrew Hallock doubled by a shawm, as in Ou beau chastel. The voices appear sometimes together and sometimes as soloists. The benefit is added textural and colour variety. The instrumental work is very impressive, with controlled tuning, long phrasing and dynamic variety.

The singing is wonderfully expressive all along. Take for example tenor Jonatan Alvarado in Ockeghem’s Ma maitresse, or him and Lior Leibovici weaving their close, canonic counterpoint in Quant ce vendra. The latter is by Busnoys or perhaps Ockeghem; I have never heard the music of either performed with such passion and commitment.

The manuscript has been dated c.1470-1475. It features a few leading figures in the music of late 15th century, and some less well known, such as the Frenchman Firminus Caron. There even is an Englishman, Walter Frye, much of whose music can be found in continental sources.

The booklet essay is in the form of a colloquy between Anna Danilevskaia and Frederic Delmotte. It concerns some quite technical issues and the ubiquitous rondeau form of most of the songs. There also is a discussion of the texts. As usual in the period, they mostly talk of lovelorn men and women whose meetings have been curtailed by some sad indiscretion, or of an inability to speak of their shared love. Frye’s setting of the Salve Regina is the only sacred piece in the entire manuscript, although it has been described as a chanson-motet. All texts appear in the original, in English and in Dutch. A nice touch: each song text is accompanied by part reproduction of the manuscript, which allows one to follow, mostly, the superius part.

Gary Higginson

Johannes OCKEGHEM (c.1410-1497)
Les desloyaux ont la saison [2:52]
Ou beau chastel [10:13]
Ce que ma bouche [3:04]
BARBIGNANT (fl.c.1445-1460)
Esperant que mon bien viendra [4:19]
Antoine BUSNOYS (c.1430-1492) or Johannes OCKEGHEM
Quant ce vendra [9:09]
Donnez l’aumosne [3:39]
Robert MORTON (c.1430-1479)
Le souvenir de vous me tue [2:51]
Par malle bouche [3:06]
Ma maitresse [6:30]
Hella mon cueur ti m’occiras [3:04]
Firminus CARON (fl.c.1460-1475)
Helas que pourra [2:25]
Walter FRYE (d.c1475)
Ave Regina [2:30]

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