Collection: The Voice in the Garden: Spanish Songs and Motets 1480-1550

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COMPOSERS: Anonymous,Francisco de Penalosa,Juan del Encina,Luys de Narvaez
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Spanish Songs & Motets 1480-1550
PERFORMER: Andrew Lawrence-King (harp), Christopher Wilson (vihuela), Gothic Voices/Christopher Page
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66653 DDD

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The ‘Voice’ is God’s, the ‘Garden’ is Eden: these 15th- and 16th-century Spanish love-songs and motets reflect the Fall of Man. Recent researches suggest that such music was normally performed by voices alone: boisterous interpretations, highly coloured by instruments, may be inauthentic responses to late 20th-century taste. The more limited sound spectrum of Gothic Voices is anything but colourless. The ensemble and their director, Christopher Page, have always demonstrated that vocal pronunciation is as important as authentic instrumentation in rediscovering the distinctive timbral qualities of early music.

Coached by a linguistic specialist, the singers produce thrilling open vowel sounds which, coupled with their immaculate intonation, create a stunningly rich, sensuous tone. Christopher Wilson and Andrew Lawrence-King play engaging solo interludes among the vocal pieces. Most are fantasias, approached reflectively with easy, flexible rhythms.

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The recorded sound is excellent, matching the forward sound of these bright and intense voices. The vocal pieces, though, are rather tightly edited – I would prefer a sense of ambience and aural warning of preliminary breaths. This is an enthralling disc, a wholly persuasive introduction both to this little-known repertoire and to how it should be performed. George Pratt