Léonin: Sacred music from 12th-century Paris

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LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Léonin: Sacred music from 12th-century Paris
WORKS: Sacred music from 12th-century Paris
PERFORMER: Red Byrd, Capella Amsterdam


The first great flowering of part music took place c1200 at Notre Dame in Paris under Léonin and Pérotin. But, until now, Pérotin has had most of the attention because it has been difficult to identify and interpret works by Léonin. This splendid new recording amounts to a quiet revolution. First, Red Byrd has split the long tenor notes of these Graduals and Alleluias into smaller utterances, allowing them to support the phrases of the upper voice. Second, it has introduced clear rhythmic patterns into some sections of the music and added free embellishments to others. The resultant play of concords and discords is stunning: the shifting patterns of the Alleluia spiritus sanctus resemble constantly changing dappled sunlight, and the long rhapsody of Priusquam te has the aura of an Indian raga. Red Byrd may not have found a historical truth here, but it has found an artistic one.


Anthony Pryer