Collection: A Musical Book of Hours
WORKS: Works by Dufay, Josquin, Ockeghem, Busnois, Penet, Hygons, Dunstaple & Byttering
PERFORMER: Pomerium/Alexander Blachly
CATALOGUE NO: 457 586-2
This is Alexander Blachly’s fourth disc for Archiv and, once again, he has come up with something interesting. Most of us have heard of medieval Books of Hours, but few know exactly what they contain – a calendar, selected gospel readings, prayers to the Virgin Mary, meditations on Jesus and the Saints and, finally, the Office of the Dead.
They do not usually contain music, so Blachly has illustrated their structure by collecting similar texts as set by medieval composers. For example, the calendar is represented by a New Year song by Dufay, and the Bible reading by Josquin’s setting of the opening of St John’s Gospel. Neither is sung well (and the reverberation is too much for the little song) but things do improve.
The performance of Ockeghem’s prayer to the virgin, O intemerata, has greater passion than the Clerks’ Group version of this piece (on Proudsound), and the highlight of the disc is the sustained and profound interpretation of Hygons’s marvellous Salve regina from the Eton Choirbook. However, those works which require particularly good tuning and clear rhythm do not fare well, which is why I prefer the Hilliard Ensemble’s cool approach to Dunstaple’s Veni sancte spiritus (Virgin) and Gothic Voices’s electrifying snap through Byttering’s En Katerine (Hyperion) to the fuzzy warmth found here. Anthony Pryer