Collection: Ecole de Notre-Dame de Paris

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Anonymous,Casalonga,Léonin,Pérotin
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Mass for the Nativity of the Virgin
PERFORMER: Ensemble Organum/Marcel Pérès
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901538 DDD

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These two recordings take us back to the 12th century.The first centres on Paris – but was it ever like this? The performances are hypnotically slow and ‘have aesthetic links with… the traditions in Greece and the Middle East’. This approach produces a languorous and strangely moving Kyrie and Agnus Dei, but in ‘Salve sancta parens’ the ethnic effect degenerates into simple bad singing.

Nevertheless, this is a brave and interesting experiment which hints that past music might have seemed mysteriously strange. Anonymous 4 have chosen their tenth anniversary to present a lively programme of music from the great Spanish pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela. We have here some of the earliest named composers in the western world, though these ‘interpretations’ make it difficult to sense their musical personalities direct.

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The great moments come at the end with ‘Portum in ultimo’ by Ayo of Troyes and ‘Congaudeant’ by Albert of Paris. Occasionally the serene coolness of this group lapses into neutrality and more might have been made of the extreme sweetness of ‘Nostra phalanx’ and the virtuosic manipulation of tension in ‘Alleluia Gratuleum’. Anthony Pryer