The Hilliard Ensemble sing Holliger

'These HIlliard performances are rather lacking in bite and drive'

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Holliger
LABELS: ECM
ALBUM TITLE: Holliger
WORKS: Machaut Transcriptions
PERFORMER: The Hilliard Ensemble; Muriel Cantoreggi, Geneviève Strosser, Jürg Dähler (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: ECM 476 5121

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I thought we had heard the last of The Hilliard Ensemble on their ‘farewell’ disc, Transeamus (2014), and perhaps we had – as a stand-alone group of performers. On the other hand they have a strong legacy of collaborations with composers and performers dating from the hugely successful Officium with the jazz saxophonist Jan Gabarek in 1994, and including works by Arvo Pärt, Gavin Bryars and others.

This new disc combines ‘straight’ performances of Machaut works with transformations of his material written by Holliger between 2001-10. Machaut himself is often tricky (one of the works featured, Beauté qui toutes autres, contains many acerbic suspensions and odd chord configurations), and these Hilliard performances are rather lacking in bite and drive. It is easy to admire Holliger’s complex manipulations of Machaut’s material, but praise for the processes does not translate directly into praise for the musical products, and his stylistic language can seem rather dated. Still, there is an impressive culminating effect when voices and instruments come together on the final track. There are no texts or translations provided for the Machaut works.

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Anthony Pryer