Johannes de Lymburgia: Gaude Felix Padua

Johannes de Lymburgia: Gaude Felix Padua
Le Miroir de Musique, Baptiste Romain
Ricercar RIC402. 65’39

Johannes de Limburgia was born around 1380 in the Duchy (or city) of Limburg. He seems to have worked in Liège between 1408–19, and then in Italy. Somebody of the same name was in Vicenza from 1431 to 1436. There was a canon with the same name in Liège in 1436. His music survives principally in the manuscript Bologna Q15, dating from the first half of the fifteenth century. It includes 46 of his pieces, all liturgical. An indication of his importance, at least to the compiler of the manuscript, is that only Dufay has more pieces than Limburgia. Despite that, he is very little known today, so this recording from the excellent Le Miroir de Musique and their director Baptiste Romain is very welcome. The four/five singers and three/four instrumentalists (one does both) perform a selection of liturgical pieces and Latin strophic songs in the manner of Italian Lauri.

The music that has survived is often in a state that may not have reflected Limburgia’s original intent, not least because of damage to the manuscript. Some pieces show what appears to be remarkable invention – or are perhaps the result of scribal errors. The Magnificat is one example of this – are the daring dissonant sequences the result of an advanced musical mind or errors in the score? The former theory is suggested by the fact that some patterns recur in other pieces.

How music like this was performed is something we will probably never know – or ever agree on. There are possible questions about some aspects of interpretations, not least the use of two female voices in the liturgical pieces and the extent to which such vocal music was accompanied – and, if so, the choice of instruments. On this recording we hear harp, lute, gittern, rebec, vielles and organetto, the latter used to support the singers rather than in a solo role.

Although were a couple of moments, for example in the Magnificat, where I wondered if the balance between the voices was as equal as it should be (the tenor and soprano sounding louder than the other voice/s), and whatever the possible questions are, the result is an extremely attractive sound, the whole CD having a delightfully gentle and reflective mood. Soprano Jessica Jans deserves special mention for the clarity and stability of her voice in several key moments, as does Baptiste Romain for his direction, arranging, and for recording this fascinating and beautiful music.