Dufay: Lament for Constantinople

Guillaume Dufay
Lament for Constantinople & other songs
The Orlando Consort
Hyperion CDA68236. 70’48

Music, and indeed most art forms, that comes on the cusp of a change in style can be amongst the most fascinating as composers, artists, and architects search out new approaches to their art. The music of Guillaume Dufay represents one such boundary, in his case, that between the Medieval and Renaissance periods. Although substantially Medieval in style, with its complex rhythmic structures and the curious Medieval habit of combining several texts in the same piece, often in different languages, there are clear elements of the forthcoming Renaissance style in Dufay’s music. This impressive recording by The Orlando Consort demonstrates this aspect of his music well in a sequence of 18 tracks, 12 in Rondeau form, 3 Ballades, 2 multi-texted Motets and a single Virelai. Continue reading

Machaut: The Gentle Physician

Guillaume de Machaut
The Gentle Physician
The Orlando Consort
Hyperion CDA68206. 59’34

This is the sixth recording in The Orlando Consort’s complete Machaut series. It focusses on Machaut’s songs of courtly love and its various ups and, more usually, downs. Lady Fortune is not always a comforting friend, and the opening and closing De Fortune ballads reflect both the positive and negative aspects of her personality. The ‘gentle physician’ (dous mireof the title is Hope, mentioned as the only remedy for unhappy lovers in the extended S’onques dolereusement, also known as Le lay de confort. Machaut (c1300-77) was, and still is, one of the finest 14th-century poet-composers, He was one of the first to whom we have biographical knowledge and a substantive collection of pieces, but also one of the last of the tradition of poet-composers. Part of the ars nova tradition of the Franco-Burgundian region, his compositions set the scene for the late Gothic and early Renaissance style. Continue reading

Machaut: A Burning Heart

Machaut: A Burning Heart
The Orlando Consort
Hyperion CDA68103. 58’58

This is the third of The Orlando Consort’s recordings of Machaut’s secular songs, following on from their ‘Songs of Le Voir Dit’ and ‘The Dart of Love’ CDs. Music like this can be appreciated at many different levels, and perhaps one of the most satisfactory (unless your mediaeval French is up to scratch) is to ignore the programme notes or translations of the text, turn the lighting down and just let the music wash over and through you. Although it might appear disrespectful to the enormous amount of research that has to go into producing a recording like, it really does work as a musical experience.

The Orlando Consort present the tracks on this disc in a way that draws the listener gently into the sound world of the early 14th century. The opening Continue reading

Compère: Magnificat, Motets and Chansons

Compère: Magnificat, Motets and Chansons
Orlando Consort
Hyperion CDA68069. 68’22

Loyset Compère is not as well-known as he deserves to be, and this recording could be the means by which his (recently re-assessed) place in musical history is acknowledged. The key to the re-assessment is the slightly embarrassing realisation that the Josquin that musicologists assumed to have been born in 1440 was not, in fact, Josquin des Prez, but another Josquin altogether. That makes Josquin des Prez around 10 years younger than thought. Similar birth date realignment concerning Obrecht and Agricola also make them younger than first thought. As David Fallows explains in his comprehensive programme notes, this leaves Loyset Compère as one of the earliest composers in the imitative style, now known to be later developed, rather than instigated, by Josquin and others. Continue reading