LABELS: Hilliard LIVE
WORKS: Ars Antiqua
PERFORMER: The Hilliard Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: 1 1HL 1001
This is the first issue of a new mail-order label which offers live concert recordings of the Hilliard Ensemble. The idea has been to produce a CD package which has ‘the substance of a book’ and which, in addition to the disc, contains translations, scholarly essays and the Hilliard Newsletter.
The translations and Mark Everist’s survey of this (mostly) 13th-century repertoire might have been found in any similar CD booklet, but Rogers Covey-Crump’s substantial essay on tuning in this period would not. The recording was made after a hard day’s teaching at the group’s summer school last year. This has not affected the wonderful flexibility of the singers in the sinuous lines of the ‘Gloria redemptori meo’, nor their ability to produce a refreshing sense of drama in the chant ‘Christus surrexit’. But in Pérotin’s long setting of ‘Viderunt omnes’ the level of energy is lower.
Also, their practice of breaking up the long notes of the tenor into manageable phrases (in accordance with recent ideas about original performance) slightly saps the momentum and made it difficult for my ears not to prefer the ecstatic (but artificially produced) continuity of Munrow’s performance on the Archiv label. In the less integrated ‘Alleluia nativitas’, however, the Hilliard Ensemble use the new approach to bring a brilliant, articulated focus to the work. This bold experiment in presentation, performance and commerce deserves support. Anthony Pryer