WORKS: Works by Bedyngham, Ventadorn, Vaillant, Meaux, Landini, Ciconia, Dufay, Perusio,
PERFORMER: Catherine Bott (soprano), Pavlo Beznosiuk, Mark Levy (fiddles)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67549
Catherine Bott says she was criticised for using Angel Studios for this 2001 recording rather than a church as is customary with early music; but this is, after all, secular music, even if courtly love is sometimes disguised as devotion to the Virgin. The principal reason for using a studio was to gain full control over the acoustic environment, to evoke locations from prison cell to countryside.
Worse still, on the anonymous 13th-century English dance (you’ll know it when you hear it) technology turns Beznosiuk and Levy into an octet. Whatever next? Discobeats on plainchant records? The vivid ambience of the recordings, the quality of the chosen compositions, the incisive, animated, full-toned precision of the fiddle playing and performances by Bott make for 62 minutes of pure pleasure, from the bucolic exuberance of that dance to the deeply-felt melancholy of the Four Planctus, also anonymous.
These performances must rank amongst Bott’s best (and that’s saying something), her range sometimes impinging in pitch and timbre on alto/counter-tenor territory. Whatever the mood, and whether singing with the fiddles or unaccompanied, her voice is rich and expressive, no more so than on the a capella first Planctus and a stunning love song by Bernart de Ventadorn. Barry Witherden