This 1985 performance of 'ars nova' music by a single 14th C composer, Jacopo da Bologna, has recently been re-released. Appropriately! It has never been surpassed in its genre. Ensemble PAN (Project Ars Nova) recorded half a dozen LP/CDs in its magnificent but too brief career. This might well be their most exciting, chiefly because the music itself of Jacopo is among the most sophisticated and challenging of the late Medieval repertoire, and because the singers of PAN meet the challenge with consummate musicianship. I've recently reviewed a second all-Jacopo performance ... after all these years ... by the ensemble Le Reverdie. That's a wonderful recording, full of verve and artistry, and I recommend it highly. But this 'pioneer' recording by PAN has the edge in sheer vocal virtuosity. Soprano Laurie Monahan and counter-tenor Michael Collver had the kind of 'chemistry' singing together that Bogard/Bacall had on the screen or Astaire/Rogers on the dance floor. The specific 'historically informed' vocal technique needed for Ars Nova is not convertible from Franco-Flemish, Baroque or Modern styles. It requires intense rhythmic precision and insight, as well as an understanding of the sorts of ornamental enhancements that suit the stretched-out melodic lines.
Monahan and Collver first joined voices while studying at the Schola Cantorum in Basel, where instrumentalist Sterling Jones was one of their teachers. Jones, who play vielle, rebec, and organetto on this CD. was a veteran of the Studio der Frühen Musik, the ensemble from which nearly all later medieval musicians drew inspiration. Crawford Young, the fantastic lutenist on this CD, also studied at Basel and now teaches there. My ears tell me that other people were involved in the performances on this CD than the four listed in the skimpy notes of this re-release. The tenor might have been John Fleagle, who sang on several CDs with Pan. The notes, I should warn people, DO contain the texts of the songs in Italian, with a full translation .... into German only. Please don't let that prevent you from hearing the music. It sings for itself.