I Have Set My Hert So Hy

Love & Devotion in Medieval England

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COMPOSERS: Various composers
LABELS: Avie
ALBUM TITLE: I Have Set My Hert So Hy
WORKS: Songs of Love and Devotion from Medieval England
PERFORMER: The Dufay Collective & Voice/ William Lyons
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2286

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The Dufay Collective specialises in the slightly rough-hewn, folksy aspects of medieval music. But that does not prevent it from providing impressively skilful, resourceful and engaging versions of these 15th-century pieces.

The group is most at home in those items it choses to perform purely instrumentally (even when there are surviving words), as we see in their ecstatic, playful repetitions of the phrases of Ye have so longe kepe schepe (the manuscript gives no clear indication of where repetitions should occur). Also, they have been ingenious in providing new accompaniments for fragmentary works – though their ‘harmonisation’ of Bryd One Brere (Bird on a Briar) makes the piece begin firmly in a minor mode on D and end in a major mode on C, which seems unlikely. A more convincing version of this piece by St George’s Canzona keeps it in the major mode throughout.

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A trio of female singers provides characterful versions of the songs and carols in something akin to Chaucerian English. They are robust and slick in Nowell, Owt of Youre Slepe Aryse; moving in I Syng of a Mayden; and the soloist in the Corpus Christi Carol captures perfectly the ethereality and fluency of its music. Anthony Pryer