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Music for the King of Scots

Binchois Consort/Andrew Kirkman (Hyperion)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Music for the King of Scots
Sacred Works from the Palace of James IV
Binchois Consort/Andrew Kirkman
Hyperion CDA68333   54:39 mins

Andrew Kirkman offers yet another casket of rediscovered musical gems – pieces once heard in the palace of James IV of Scotland (reigned 1488-1513) at Linlithgow, west of Edinburgh. Sadly the palace is now in ruins, but a link given in the booklet enables us to compare the version on the disc with the reconstructed acoustic of the original building. The impressive scientific research behind this (involving recording in an anechoic chamber) will certainly lead to further attempts to recapture lost acoustics of past buildings.

The main work here is the Missa Horrendo (the ‘Catherine Wheel Mass’). Its endlessly unfolding melodic contours are challenging but are sung here with a magical poise. The opening of the Kyrie, missing in the manuscript, has been nicely reconstructed, but the performance of the second half (‘Ne pereant’) lacks pace. Better is the Credo where the more dramatic text attracts lively moments of exchange between the voices (‘Dominus et vivificantum’ – Lord and giver of life), and in the Agnus the subtle dynamic variations of the performers lend depth to the expression of reverence. The singers conclude with a beautifully constrained rendering of a Magnificat and Cornysh’s lovely Ave Maria.

Anthony Pryer