Collection: The Spirits of England and France, Vol. 2

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COMPOSERS: Brule,De la Halle,le Bastart,Vielle & Anonymous
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Songs of the Trouvères
PERFORMER: Gothic Voices/Christopher Page
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66773 DDD

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As Christopher Page points out in his fascinating insert notes, the trouvères repertoire is extensive: with almost two thousand surviving pieces, there is enough material for 150 CDs. However, in this second volume from their series The Spirits of England and France, Page and Gothic Voices present a marvellous opportunity to sample some of the repertoire’s richest treasures in vividly recorded performances that are exceptional both for their technical quality and for their atmospheric evocation of the trouvère tradition.

The listener is constantly delighted by this excellently balanced programme, which offers a wide range of different vocal genres. Grands chants by Gace Brulé, Wibers Kaukesel and Gontier de Soignies, whose texts express the conventions of courtly love, enchant with their expressive nostalgia and seriousness; while pieces such as the ardently robust Dansa (track 13) and two deliciously sensuous Pastourelles (tracks 7 and 15) introduce a seductive tone, with erotic expressions of blatant sexual desire.

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Timbral variety is provided by three spirited Estampies, played on fiddle (tracks 3, 11 and 16). Ultimately, though, it is Audefroi’s hauntingly beautiful spinning song about a husband’s betrayal, ‘Au novel tens pascor’ – the only piece sung from the woman’s perspective – that provides the most compelling reason to buy this outstanding disc.