IN THE LAST DECADES of the fourteenth century, composers working in the French tradition were sometimes musicians of profligate imagination. In addition to polyrhythms, extravagant melodic sequences and sudden dissonances, they sometimes created a sense of forward momentum in their compositions by sheer crowding of the texture, a legacy reaching back to the leading composer of the French Ars nova, Guillaume de Machaut (d1377). The music of Machaut, represented here by the exotic four-part ballade, Il m’est avis, was still being enjoyed in Italy around 1430 according to the theorist Ugolino of Orvieto, and even the most flamboyant aspects of late fourteenth-century style, fostered by Machaut’s successors, did not perish entirely in the 1400s.
This recording from Gothic Voices and Christopher Page—acknowledged as one of the finest performances of medieval music of the last twenty years—follows their many Gramophone Award-winning albums and celebrates the anonymous English composers of the fourteenth century. The combination of Page’s tremendous scholarship, the simple beauty of the singing and the extraordinary freshness of the music is irresistible.
Probably copied around 1200, this songbook was discarded within a generation or so and used as flyleaves for another book. It was poorly written, decayed and damp, marred by stains and the ravages of time, but because the pages were being used for another purpose, some unknown benefactor preserved this wealth of music and poetry. The songbook then remained hidden for some six hundred years.
This is one of the fine series of CDs which Christopher Page and his Gothic Voices made for Hyperion. The group were founded in 1980 and during the 1980s and 1990s made more than twenty recordings, starting with ‘A feather on the breath of God’ their influential and popular disc of music by Hildegard of Bingen.
Seven different organs from the Swiss firm of Metzler carry the weight of the project, which is where Herrick's consistency begins. Other complete Bach collections use many and varied makes and locations in the hope of keeping our interest alive. Herrick's journey brings us a sound that has enough variety to show the Metzler's ability to bear a responsible approach to Bach despite their modern construction.