Collection: The Spirits of England and France 1

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Cooke,Machaut,Perugia,Pykini
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Music of the later Middle Ages for Court and Church
PERFORMER: Gothic Voices/Christopher Page
CATALOGUE NO: CDA66739 DDD

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The French and the English have never really got on since that nasty business at Hastings. It takes a visionary like Christopher Page to make us admire each other – even if only in the field of music – and this exciting new series is entente chordiale at its best. The French parade their finest motets and chansons. Laus detur multipharia is recorded here for the first time, beautiful and shocking in its harmonies. Je ne puis/Iustus, like so much on this disc, is served exquisitely: first the simple underlying two-voiced song, then the added tracery of the other motet voices. Belle sans per is less convincing: the textless but vocalised lower parts switchback rather nervously here, almost like a barbershop quartet.

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However, Andrew Tusa’s haunting version of Machaut’s Ay mi! surpasses all previous recordings. The English are at their best in the laments and Mass movements. The exile of Thomas Becket provoked the composition of the grave but moving In Rama sonat gemitus, sung here with warmth, and in a mesmerisingly close acoustic, by Leigh Nixon. The Credo by Cooke is alive in every part. It is the sheer sound of these works that will impress: you could think that coup de grâce was French for lawnmower and still not miss the point of this glorious music. Anthony Pryer