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The coronation of King Richard I on September 3rd 1189 is the ispiration for this very special recording by Gothic Voices. It is a concept album in its own right. And the main theme is very interesting and atmospheric.
There is a purity of intonation in this recording. A feature that is not new to the Gothic Voices. The recording is in fact excellent in terms of diction throughout the whole programme. And there is much colour and vitality present too.
Christopher Page manages to integrate a group of 12th Century pieces and make them atractive to any one that is not well experienced in medieval music.
The recording centres the Conductus. And it is mainly homophonic Latin songs featured. There is real beauty found here.
Polyphony of the 12th and 13th Centuries seems to have a strict metre of the poems and everything seems to end in regular phrases. But in these performances the musicians bend. Soften and add variety to the music. The Gothic Voices unlock the full range of sounds in these pieces and offer us a fantastic varyed scene.
There is an intense performance with clarity. This is one of the best recordings of this genre of music and it can really make you thirst for more.
The recording was made in 1988 in the Church of the Hospital of St Cross Winchester. And the sound engineering is excellent. The presentation of the product is very good and the booklet is very informative and gives us a great insight into the life of Richard I
I highly recommend this recording as much as I would any recording by the Gothic Voices.
Of course, the music (conducti and chansons) on this CD written in the 12th century by mostly anonymous composers, is not as sophisticated as the polyphony of an Orlandus Lassus. But, the works still stand out by the quality of the texts and of their appealing melodies.
The main themes of the songs are ‘war’ and its counterpart ‘peace’. A great text is ‘7 – Etas auri redditur (The golden Age returns)’ (Anon.): ‘the rich man is now suppressed and the pauper is exalted. Peace and Justice embrace one another ... an end to plunder, a clear path to justice for the clergy, and a place for truth.’ In ‘1 – Mundus vergens (The world declining)’ (Anon.): ‘the world flowering in peace is now kindled by the torch of war’. In ’11 – Purgator criminum (He who purges sins)’ (Anon.): ‘Truth comes hard on the heels of mercy and peace; goodness is joined to justice’. In ’15 – Ver pacis apperit’ (Anon.): ‘the springtime of peace opens the bosom of the earth’.
War means also death. In ‘9 – In occasu sideris (As the star falls)’ (Anon.) internecine war makes England ‘sink into mourning’. In ‘6 – Anglia, planctus itera (England, repeat your lamentation) (Anon.): ‘Death has harshly raged within your borders’. In ’13 – Pange melos lacrimosum (Compose a tearful melody)’ (Anon.): ‘Death, the prince of this terrible law, rules without pity’.
Another theme is ‘love’, which is one of the three counsels in ’14 – Ma joie me semont (My joy summons me)’ by Blondel de Nesle. Love can turn into high praise of the loved one, as in ‘10 – L’amours dont sui espris (I am on fire with a love)’ by Blondel de Nesle: ‘No one ever saw a fairer lady either of form or of face’. In this song there is still hope, but not in ‘3 – A la douçour de la bele saison (In the sweetness of the new season)’ by Gace Brulé: ‘But I still cannot perceive that she is willing to reward me with any of the favours for which I have suffered such pains’, or, in ’12 – Li nouviauz tanz (The new season)’ by Li Chastelain de Couci: ‘why did I ever set eyes upon her, that sweet creature whom I call False Friend’.
There are also religious themes. In ‘5 – Hac in anni ianua (In this, the doorway to the year)’ (Anon.) one wishes with the birth of Christ that ‘may the evil be destroyed that destroys virtue’, and in ‘8 – Vetus abit littera (The Old Law passes away)’ (Anon.) ‘a new boy … strengthens the covenant of peace’.
In ’16 – Latex silice (Water springs from the rock)’ (Anon.) through Christ’s death ‘you will be convinced to follow the path lest you be too ungrateful’.
In general, the conducti have simple straightforward unsentimental (pure) melodies with rudimentary counterpoints and fixed rhythms, generating a rather soft staccato style (1, 2, 4, 11, 15) sometimes with melismas (7, 8). But, ‘5 – In this, the doorway to the year’ and ‘16 – Water springs from the rock’ have a joyous tone with vivid fixed rhythms and melismas. The conducti about death have an impressive elegiac intonation (6, 9) with mourning melismas (13).
The chansons excel by their magnificent, pure and flowing melodies (3, 10, 12, 14). They are far more expressive than the conducti, like ’12 – The new season’, which is a genuine love lament.
The scores are sublimely sung by the ‘Gothic Voices’ under Christopher Page.
One regret: the Latin and Old French texts are only translated in English. The excellent introduction by Christopher Page is also not translated into another language.
This CD is a must have for all lovers of classical music.