WORKS: Sacred Music from Bologna Q15
PERFORMER: The Clerks’ Group/Edward Wickham
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD 023
The early 15th-century manuscript known as Bologna Q15 may not be an obvious commercial venture for the troubled recording industry, so full credit is due to The Clerks’ Group and Signum for their initiative. Despite its unsexy name, Q15 is one of the great anthologies of early Renaissance music, and the subject of much recent academic research – making this disc a good example of the marriage between scholarship and performance practice. Its selection of works by Dufay ranges from archaic-style motets – seldom performed today – to forward-looking Mass movements.
The Clerks’ Group relishes the lyricism of Dufay’s language, and the singers’ youthful, supple voices are fully at ease with his style. On the whole the singers cope well with the technical challenges of this exposed repertoire, in which there is no recourse to vibrato to mask poor intonation and no safety in numbers. The performances are characterised by restraint and subtle expressivity, allowing the music to speak for itself. Without wanting to regress to Romanticised ideas of how this repertoire was performed, I would say that they lack that last ounce of intensity and as a group they have yet to develop a really distinctive style. But they are, nonetheless, talented young performers who show much promise. Kate Bolton