An Old Hall Ladymass
Early sacred chant; plus new sacred chant by Marianne Reidarsdatter Eriksen, David Lang, Catalina Vicens
Trio Mediaeval; Catalina Vicens (organ)
2L 2L-175-SABD (CD/SACD/Blu-ray) 47:34 mins
The Old Hall Manuscript, now in the British Museum, is the key source for late medieval sacred music, written in the early-15th century in the reign of Henry V (who probably composed one of the works) by a single enthusiastic scribe. Other scribes added more material, keen to collect together their favourite motets and movements from masses. Largely Glorias, Credos and motets, these pieces were written for three male voices. Here, the all-female Norwegian singers of Trio Mediaeval here transcribe selected works, and intersperse them with improvised interludes on the organetto (a wearable, hand-blown organ with a single, small keyboard and row of pipes) alongside two newly commissioned works, to create an effective ‘Lady Mass’.
Trio Mediaeval (Anna Maria Friman, Linn Andrea Fuglseth and Jorunn Lovise Husan) bring their own highly polished yet flexible approach to the works, the plainchant sculptured, with occasional folkish hints. It shows in their underlining of the dissonance of Aleyn’s Gloria (c1400), among others, and is thrown into relief by the evocative sound of Catalina Vicens’s organetto in the opening Kyrie. Throughout, Vicens’s deeply nuanced, expressive playing brings another welcome dimension to the smooth polyphony of the Trio, using improvisation both to flesh out the motets, and more substantially in Vicens’s own wonderfully informal ‘improvised’ Interludium.
Marianne Reidarsdatter Eriksen’s Sol Lucet is a stylistic jolt, at first, with its fading, cliff-edge vocalisations. Later, the layered vocal entries of the other newly commissioned work, David Lang’s Alleluia/Amen, is exquisitely done. Medieval and contemporary alike are heightened by the large echoic acoustic of the Uranienborg Church in Oslo (and the fine recording quality – here in both Blu-ray and SACD), although sometimes the emphasis is a little too heavy on atmospheric perfection.
Sarah Urwin Jones