Collection: Love’s Illusion

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Anonymous
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Music from the Montpellier Codex
PERFORMER: Anonymous 4
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907109 DDD

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This disc is a superb example of scholarly research vividly revealing a living experience. The four female singers take 29 French motets from the Montpellier Codex of c1400. Their subject is courtly love, the total subjection of a young gallant to his mistress. More risqué are the amours and drinking feats of monks, more poignant the imprisonment in a convent of a young nun ‘feeling the first sweet pangs beneath my little belt’. But with up to four texts sung simultaneously, these motets invite appreciation as sheer luxurious sound.

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Anonymous 4 have an ethereal clarity that is absolutely captivating, warmed further by a gentle resonance in the recording. They create variety within the constant ‘perfect’ (triple) time and limited textures, by building up parts one by one from a single opening line, by adding vocal drones, and by contrasts of pace. Intonation isn’t always unswerving, yet, as I listened to these fluid phrases, growing outwards from perfect consonance, through uninhibited dissonances, and back to their final consonant repose, it occurred to me that the society which generated this music would have been lucky indeed to hear it sung with such near-perfection. George Pratt