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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Medieval music with some very modern concerns, 13 Jan 2012
By 
E. L. Wisty "World Domination League" (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Earliest Songbook In England (Hyperion: CDH55297) (Audio CD)
The "earliest songbook in England" is a manuscript in Cambridge University Library, probably written around 1200, which only survived to the present day because the pages were used as flyleaves for another book rather than discarded completely. Gothic Voices have here recorded the greater part of the content, a very varied repertoire indeed. Monophonic and polyphonic, sacred and secular, many of the pieces are associated with certain religious feasts, particularly the Christmas season - herein for example is the earliest known three part composition from England, "Verbum patris umanatur", a joyful celebration of Christmas Day. Only a couple however are liturgical in the sense of being part of the Mass or Divine Office, a "Benedicamus Domino" and an "Agnus Dei" both with trope texts.

A wide geographical net for the collection and dissemination of some of the pieces is evident. Several reappear in the famous Benediktbeuern manuscript, a collection more commonly known as the "Carmina Burana". Another, "Adulari nesciens", is also seen in a Florence manuscript probably originating in Paris c. 1250-60, and the song "Diastematica vocis armonia" celebrating Easter in its lyrics demonstrates a knowledge of Greek musical terminology. "Vacillantis trutine" hints at an origin from the then nascent universities of Paris, a love song in which a student sings of being torn between his thoughts for a young lady named Flora and his studies.

The medieval moralists and satirists speak in many of the songs of concerns which will still be familiar to us today: "Regnat avaritia regnant et avari. Mente quivis noxia nititur ditari, cum sit summa gloria censu gloriari" - "Greed reigns, and greedy men reign also. Everyone strives maliciously to become rich, for it is the highest glory to boast of your possessions".

The performances by Gothic Voices are of the highest standard, and having only heard their polyphonic material (4 part masses and so on) from the early Renaissance thus far, it's nice to hear many of the members get a chance to sing solo with some of these songs. A top notch disc all round, and a definite must have for early music enthusiasts.

The accompanying booklet provides some brief notes in English, French and German. Full Latin sung texts are given, with English translations.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating Directness Redolent of Refreshing Simplicity., 29 Mar 2013
By 
H. A. Weedon "Mouser" (North Somercotes, Lincolnshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Earliest Songbook In England (Hyperion: CDH55297) (Audio CD)
This CD comprises a collection of music discovered on decaying ancient parchment dating to circa 1200. In all there are 23 tracks including several solo pieces, five of which are sung alto by Catherine King. All except Rogers Covey-Crump the voices have changed since the earlier Gothic Voices recordings. This one is dated 2000 and Christopher Page is still directing. Here again we have the same high standard of both singing and recording as one has come to expect of Gothic Voices.

I love listening to this kind of music, which I find thought provokingly inspiring. It's actually quite complicated, causing one to wonder how long ago was it that humans began to sing actual songs. Did singing take place in the caves when the cave painters were painting? Are some forms of modern music closer to the primitive forms? Maybe it all started with drums and chanting, but there's none of that here where we've already reached the stage of high dramatisation albeit with a stimulating directness redolent of refreshing simplicity. It's as if it were some kind of upliftingly paradoxical kind of art. It would take too long to comment individually on each of the 23 tracks. All I can say is that it provides the listener with one of those extra-special experiences of life as its inspiring sounds answer more questions than words can ever do. Thoroughly recommended.
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