Collection: The Study of Love

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COMPOSERS: Codex Faenza Anonymous,French Anonymous,Machaut,Pycard,Solage
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: French Songs and Motets of the Fourteenth Century
PERFORMER: Gothic Voices/Christopher Page
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66619 DDD

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The Study of Love is the last in Gothic Voices’ trilogy of recordings exploring chansons and motets from 14th-century France. As the title suggests, virtually all the pieces here are settings of courtly love poems, and no such collection would be complete without the finest of medieval poet-composers, Guillaume de Machaut. Here he’s represented by five works, including two beautiful monophonic virelais – intricate solo songs, evocatively delivered by Rogers Covey-Crump and Margaret Philpot. While Machaut’s skill at wielding a quill is well known, less familiar is the vast number of works by the ubiquitous Anon.

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Much of the fascination of this disc lies in the many unattributed pieces which have been realised here for the first time in recent years. In most cases, Christopher Page has decided that only one voice should present the text, while the others sing the French vowel ‘u’. How they managed to do so without laughing I’ll never know, but the results are surprisingly successful. Mention should also be made of the extraordinary Gloria setting by Pycard –never mind if it seems rather out of place here – and of the harp solos, sensitively played by Andrew Lawrence-King. These are subtle, intelligent performances reflecting the refined art of 14th-century French music. Kate Bolton