This is a four-disc collection of wonderful pieces representative of the types of music from the Medieval times/Middle Ages. Gregorian chant has experienced a resurgence in popularity (indeed, it is almost new age), but in fact they are part of the ancient tradition of church music. Masses, folk songs, and motets round out the types of music on offer here.
The first two discs, entitled 'Monks and Troubadours', combine folk songs and chansons with Gregorian chant sequences - the first disc has chants for Palm Sunday (performed by the monks of Munsterschwarzach, Germany) together with songs performed by the Early Music Consort of London. The second disc incorporates chants that might be used at a church dedication (performed by the monks of Notre-Dame de Fontgombault Abbey, France) and songs again by the Early Music Consort. The difference is palpable. Gregorian chant varies significantly from the polyphonic songs of the troubadours.
The third disc is of motets, composed by Dunstable, Dufay, Binchois, Obrecht, and Desprez, some (but not all) of the great names in medieval composition. This collection includes a polytexted motet by Dunstable and more standard forms in which all voices join to sing the same words. Binchois' motet 'Gloria, laus et honor' derives from a Gregorian chant found on the first disc, with words still familiar in the modern hymn 'All Glory, Laud and Honour'.
The fourth CD inlcudes masses by Desprez and Ockeghem. Desprez is one of the greatest of the medieval composers, and his Missa L'homme arme is one of the better known; Ockeghem's mass here is one for the dead, a very common type of composition, here expertly executed. The final piece on this disc is a song written by Desprez in honour of Ockeghem, which despite not using typical mass or biblical texts, still incorporates the introit from the requiem, and as a mark of respect for the passing of Ockeghem, Desprez composed the music itself using all black notes.
This Archiv production is a stunning collection, great for the listener and great for the student. In one set, one has a broad range of music, spanning many types and hundreds of years. The production quality is very high, the music itself wonderful, the performances beautifully carried out - not much more can be asked for from a recording.