Léonin: Magister Leoninus, Vol. 2: Sacred Music

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COMPOSERS: Léonin
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Magister Leoninus, Vol. 2: Sacred Music
PERFORMER: Red Byrd, Yorvox/John Potter, Richard Wistreich
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67289
This second disc has been a long time coming since the first volume appeared in 1997 (reviewed in December of that year). It continues the theme of exploring pieces written for Christmas, Easter and Pentecost by a composer, or composers, probably associated with Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The obscurity of their origin is matched by the uncertainties of their performance interpretation: should they be in free rhythm or fixed rhythmic patterns? Should the very long tenor notes be sung in one breath? Should the apparent clashes between the voices be enhanced or smoothed away?

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The answers given here to these questions are probably correct, but they are the least interesting aspect

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of this cool and awesome recording. John Potter and Richard Wistreich wring the utmost tenderness and beauty from these pieces – especially in the verse of ‘Sedit angelus’ where the word ‘crucifixum’ is made to evoke a mysterious, religious medieval agony. And the odd, searing harmonies in ‘Iudea et Iherusalem’ and ‘Dum conplerentur’ take us into a long-lost, almost physiological world of musical expression. For those who doubt that the musical imagination had much to work on before the Age of Mozart, this recording should be required listening. Anthony Pryer