This is a wonderful collection of chansons, or songs, from medieval France. It is different from many Anonymous 4 collections in that this is a piece of secular songs, primarily dealing with courtly love; the songs are particularly influenced by the Arthurian romances, very much in vogue at that time. This is a collection of motets - a musical style that came out of polyphony and is an important bridge between chant and modern song styling.
The Montpellier Codex has over 300 different motets (not including duplications), including many double motets, where the tenor piece is based on a plainchant, and different voices have their own texts. These 'fin amours' songs were most likely performed mostly in private entertainment settings, and song have argued that certain parts should be done by instruments rather than voices. Of course, the Anonymous 4 is an a capella group, so that idea does not come into practice here.
This is a playful and fun recording, full of lovely songs that reach the heart in strong ways.
-- Liner Notes --
This text accompaniment to this disc is very full, so much so that the booklet is not contained within the jewel case, but rather within a slipcover in which both the CD/jewel case and the booklet reside. The liner notes include a description of the work, a brief piece about the quartet, and the lyrics of the songs both in original language and in translation - all repeated in English, German, and French sections (however, the French lyrics are in the older French language; a modern translation would be helpful). The cover art is a section of the lovely Tapestry, Lady and the Unicorn, Atelier of the Loire Valley, 'mille fleurs', fifteen century in the Museum of Cluny, France.
-- Anonymous 4 --
Contrary to the implication of their name, the Anonymous 4 are not anonymous. This is a vocal quartet made up of Ruth Cunningham, Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer, and Johanna Rose at the time of this recording (Ruth Cunningham will later go on to a solo career early, and another member will join - Jacqueline Horner). They came together as a formal group in 1986, and have been ensemble-in-residence at St. Michael's Church in New York City, giving concert series in New York as well as throughout North America. They have been featured a number of times on national media in North America as well as Germany. They then went on to yet more success, eventually performing more that 1000 concerts worldwide.
Their specialty is working with chant, monophonic and polyphonic music, and working with medieval texts. According to one source, 'The group takes its name from an anonymous music theorist of the late 13th century, Anonymous IV, who is the principal source on the two famous composers of the Notre Dame school, Léonin and Pérotin.'
The group ended a touring career of nearly two decades in 2004.
on 10 June 2013
A stunning album, the vocals of the Anonymous 4 are clear and beautiful, and the intricate harmonies and evocative melodies are a joy to hear. The only fault I would find is that on a couple of tracks the sound is slightly clipped due to compression of the recording, a small fault which only slightly detracts from a stunning performance. I would definitely recommend this to any lover of early music.