GRAMOPHONE AWARDS SHORTLIST 2019
The timbre of the female altos, especially in their lower register, isn’t quite familiar from other continental ensembles or English ones. This could do with a touch more polish, though one wouldn’t want to lose the slightly acidulated quality, for it adds something distinctive to the mix. Cardoso’s penchant for chromatic touches is well known, but those false relations require gimlet-like precision, which isn’t always the case here. But I look forward to hearing more from them soon: Cardoso’s music deserves further exposure. Fabrice Fitch (1/19)
Dufay ‘The Dufay Spectacle’ Apostolo glorioso. Ce jour de l’an. Ecclesiae militantis. Entre vous, gentils amoureux. Estrinez moy, je vous estrineray. Et pour certain. Je me complains piteusement. Je requier a tous amoureux. Je vous pri. Las, que feray? ne que je devenray?. Mon bien, m’amour. O sancte Sebastiane. Portigaler. Puisque vous estez campieur. Quel fronte signorille. Resvelliés vous et faites chiere lye. Salve flos Tuscae gentis. Se le fatze ay pale. Se la phase pale. Vasilissa, ergo gaude. Vergene bella Gothic Voices with Clare Wilkinson mez Jane Achtman vihuela d’arco/fiddle Andrew Lawrence-King org/regal/bray hp/psaltery Keith McGowan douçaine/shawm Emily White sackbut Linn F CKD568 (67’ • DDD • T/t)
Back in the 1990s, the highlight of my reviewing year was almost always the arrival of a new CD from Christopher Page and Gothic Voices – not just for their supreme musicianship but also for the originality of the programming and presentation. Then Page withdrew from the group and for the past 20 years their existence has been far more peripheral to the early music scene. What a pleasure, then, to be able to welcome this Dufay recording as matching all the qualities that made Gothic Voices absolute leaders in the field. This time it looks very much as though Julian Podger is the presiding genius; and he has chosen the repertory very well, imagining a celebration at some point late in Dufay’s life and framing the entire proceedings with various versions and fragments of one of his most inspiring early songs, ‘Ce jour de l’an’.
Adding glory to the occasion are five of his motets, presented in what seem to me the most intelligent and musically transparent performances. Here the influence of Andrew Lawrence-King seems important, not just because he plays so many different instruments but because he has the neat idea of adding a 16‑foot pitch only at crucial points within the motets: others have done this before but never with the same restraint, intelligence and musical power. One could question some of the choices of instruments here but never the quality of the musical results.
To mention all the glorious details here would break the banks of this review but I cannot avoid mentioning the marvellously experienced singing of Catherine King and her duetting with Steven Harrold: that is seriously classy. And the entire package is beautifully assembled by Linn. David Fallows (7/18)
Dufay ‘Lament for Constantinople’ Belle, que vous ay je mesfait?. Ce moys de may. La dolce vista. En triumphant de Cruel Dueil. Helas, et quant vous veray?. Je me complains. Je ne suy plus tel que souloye. Je vous pri/Ma tres douce amie!/Tant que mon argent dura. Je vueil chanter de cuer joyeux. Ma belle dame, je vous pri. Malheureux cueur. Mon chier amy. O tres piteulx/Omnes amici (Lamentatio sancte matris ecclesie Constantinopolitane). Par le regard de vos beaux yeux. Pouray je avoir vostre mercy?. Puisque vous estez campieur. Le serviteur. Vostre bruit et vostre grant fame The Orlando Consort Hyperion F CDA68236 (71’ • DDD • T/t)
This isn’t the first recording of Dufay’s chansons to appear since the Medieval
Ensemble of London’s complete survey nearly 40 years ago (L’Oiseau-Lyre, 12/81), but it’s the most rounded and satisfying view of him to be had from a single anthology (in that Cantica Symphonia’s 2006 Glossa survey focused on the early songs). I was happy to be reacquainted with a few personal favourites (the early ballade Mon chier amy, the late virelai Malheureux cueur and rondeau Vostre bruit and the cheeky drinking-song Puisque vous estez campieur), but having listened several times through I’m struck by several that had not quite done so before, which now speak very eloquently: Pouray je avoir, Belle, que vous ay je mesfait? and the understatedly perfect Par le regard. Like so many of the individual songs, the recital grows in stature with repeated listening.
The reason is that the Orlandos are so experienced in this repertory that, nearly always, the choice of tempo and tone is spot-on (and tempo is perhaps the most important decision, given that absolute tempos are never indicated), which maximises the music’s communicative potential and more than compensates for the occasional vocal blemish (that this is fiendishly exposed singing cannot be overstated). The programme takes a while to get going: the choice of O tres piteulx as an opener is curiously muted and downbeat, and thereafter En triumphant de Cruel Dueil, which seems to me a touch slow given the voices involved. I imagine some may find the Orlandos’ overall approach corseted and overly cautious, as though hearing Dufay through the prism of their recent Machaut recordings. I can understand this, but in singing of such insight there is so much to learn. And as to the music – did I mention it earlier? – Dufay is simply astonishing. Fabrice Fitch (5/19)
Josquin Missa Gaudeamus. Missa L’ami Baudichon The Tallis Scholars / Peter Phillips Gimell F CDGIM050 (67’ • DDD • T/t)
The musical importance of Josquin Desprez (c1450/551521) cannot be overstated, yet several of his Masses are still not well represented on record. This new release brings The Tallis Scholars’ total to 14 and includes the seldom-heard Missa L’ami Baudichon. As ever, Peter Phillips and his singers bring confidence and elegance to Josquin’s music; and, as Caroline Gill and I recently discussed (Classics Reconsidered, 12/16), the consistency of vision since their 1987 Josquin is remarkable.
This new album follows a familiar format: two Masses in contrasting styles, presented by an all-vocal consort of 8‑10 singers. In fact, it’s that very consistency of approach that is so useful when surveying Josquin’s staggering output. In Missa L’ami Baudichon, often considered the earliest due to the Dufay‑esque use of a fragmentary cantus firmus, it’s quite amazing how much material Josquin builds around a tune as simple as ‘Three blind mice’. Revisiting the earlier recording by Peter Urquhart and Capella Alamire (Dorian, 11/95) I am struck by the dominating tone of their instrumental cantus firmus (sackbut) compared to the lightness of Peter Phillips’s tenors. As ever with The Tallis Scholars, interpretative gestures are subtle but flowing: listen for the deliciously well-controlled gush of excitement, a brass gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE SHORTLIST 2019 23