LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Medieval European vocal music
PERFORMER: Theatre of Voices/Paul Hillier
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907185
The hoquetus was a kind of musical hiccup. Medieval composers gave the name to the technique of bouncing melodic fragments between the voices in syncopated rhythms. This CD selects works using that technique, but its real interest lies in the wonderful panorama it provides of music from 13th- and 14th-century France, England and Italy.
France is represented by anonymous works from the Montpellier, Bamberg and Picardy manuscripts, as well as pieces by named composers. Here Machaut’s motet ‘Tous corps qui’ stands out for its delicate textures, beautifully displayed in this sophisticated performance.
Amongst the works from England there is a terrific motet on St Thomas – ‘Thomas Gemma Cantuarie’. This is given with great energy, though with some bumpy singing on the bottom line, and perhaps with slightly too much cheeriness for a martyr.
Pieces from Italian sources include some fine compositions by Ciconia – the performance here of his Venetian motet ‘Venecie mundi’ easily overshadows the version by Alla Francesca on the Opus 111 label.
Finally, there is humour: in ‘Campanis cum cymbalis’ the melody ding-dongs between the voices to imitate the tolling of a bell, and in the saucy ‘Cum martelli’ the underlying hoquet obligingly recreates for us the persistent rhythms of a creaky bed. Anthony Pryer