Magazine article Gramophone

Machaut: Messe De Nostre Dame

Magazine article Gramophone

Machaut: Messe De Nostre Dame

Article excerpt

Machaut [G]

Messe de Nostre Dame. Inviolata genitrix/Felix virgo/Ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes. Piange, regni respublica/Tu qui gregem tuum ducis/Apprehende arma et scutum et exurge Graindelavoix / Bjorn Schmelzer

Glossa (F) GCDP32110 (73' * DDD * T/t)

A new recording of Machaut's Mass is always an event, and this one is compelling and provocative in equal measure: compelling, because of the beauty of the voices and the evident care that has been lavished on so many details; provocative, because so many of those details will surprise, startle and perhaps infuriate.

Inevitably, these details include the choices of interpretative accidentals (musica ficta, to use the convenient shorthand), since very few recordings agree on these. Then there's the choice of sonority, very much the house style of Bjorn Schmelzer's ensemble, and modelled on Ensemble Organum. It's sometimes informally referred to as 'Corsican goatherds', and although it has its detractors, it has seldom if ever been deployed in polyphony as convincingly as here. Along with a distinctively nasal vocal production, this involves a luxuriant, microtonal approach to ornamentation, most often associated with non-Western chant and folk traditions. To all this Graindelavoix add a deliberately flexible approach to rhythm, which successfully distinguishes between the two main compositional styles deployed by Machaut.

It's very skilfully done: the rapid exchanges between voices (known as hocket) sound very fluid and yet perfectly controlled. …

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