WORKS: Quam pulchra es; Blow thi horne hunter; O regina mundi clara
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5512
Lionheart is the male equivalent of Anonymous 4, a group of six New York-based scholar-singers who cultivate an ultra-refined, spiritual and intimate approach to their singing. This disc, subtitled Images of women in medieval England, includes a wide variety of sacred and secular Tudor music, including half a dozen chunks of Sarum chant (plainchant used at Salisbury Cathedral at that time) which serves to break up the sequence of polyphony, but to my mind rather unnecessarily in this instance.
Otherwise there are four anonymous pieces, John Dunstable’s lovely ‘Quam pulchra es’, three songs by William Cornysh, including the beautiful ‘A robyn, gentyl robyn’, and the boisterously predatory ‘Blow thi horne hunter’, and Richard Pygott’s ‘Quid petis o fili?’ But one piece stands head and shoulders above the rest. It is John Browne’s late 15th-century votive antiphon from the Eton Choirbook, ‘O regina mundi clara’, whose complex weave of six melismatic lines is built to a majestic climax. The singing is poised throughout the disc, with an attractive, slight huskiness to Lawrence Lipnik’s countertenor, but in the Browne delicacy is foresworn in favour of a more outward-looking mellifluousness. Recording is clear, if a touch dry. Stephen Pettitt