De Coincy

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: The Miracles of Notre-Dame: Trouvère poetry set to medieval popular songs
PERFORMER: The Harp Consort/Andrew Lawrence-King
At the beginning of the 13th century the Abbot of the monastery of Vic-sur-Aisne, Gautier de Coincy, constructed a massive verse narrative on the Miracles of the Virgin Mary. He included in it 22 sacred songs, but with French texts and borrowed secular melodies. The notated sources give no precise information on either rhythm or accompaniments.


Andrew Lawrence-King’s approach to the performance of these works is fairly experimental. First, he employs a variety of instruments ranging from an almost bluesy muted cornett (played with languid panache by Ian Harrison in ‘Douce dame’) to a delicate, tinkling halo of sound (beautifully evoked from the psaltery in ‘Talenz m’est pris’). Second, he imposes various moods on to the songs: ‘Puisque voi’ is sung in a freely lyrical fashion, while the conductus on ‘Sainte Leocade’ is relentlessly vigorous – a style oddly out of kilter with the text. Finally, he allows the singers in the choral refrains to indulge in improvised clashes which, in the otherwise poignant ‘Ja pour yver’, sometimes produces an intense kind of yapping. There is good musicianship here, but personally I prefer the more cautious, but deeply committed, version of these songs by the New London Consort (reviewed November 2002). Anthony Pryer