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Customer Review

on 10 February 2009
A rendering of a medieval fable in French and Latin of about 1310, with an English translation in the CD notes. Joel Cohen claims to have done detailed research into the original manuscript, which is in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, in order to produce authentic instrument and voice reproduction. He explains the story: `The poem's central metaphor for moral rot and decadence was a fallow-coloured horse named Fauvel, symbol of everything wrong with France, her society, and her system of governance.' The 38 stanzas he has chosen from the manuscript are preformed in various styles which echo the widely differing scenes, moods and meanings, using voice and medieval instruments. `Variety' is the word as they move from solo song and lone instrument through chorus and instruments in various combinations to a street scene where a delightful cacophony of sound expresses in a more comprehensive way than words ever could, something of the moral of the tale. The original manuscript contained verse and musical notation, but the actual mode of performance was left to individual imagination. Cohen suggests that the intention was for it to be read by the privileged few. The work of Cohen and his team has made this historical document, with many layers of meaning, accessible to all. Students of medieval literature, poetry, music and the development of music notation, sociology, and French politics, (among others!), will all find it opens a rich seam of investigation, discovery and further questions. For the casual listener to medieval music it is a delight.
If this Apex CD was purely for entertainment, then five stars would be appropriate. The four star rating reflects my difficulty as a student of discovering its academic credentials which would appear to be sound, but need confirmation. The Boston Camerata website lists this recording as being based on an Erato 1991 recording which I have not studied.
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