PERFORMER: The Clerks’ Group/Edward Wickham
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD 011
Guillaume de Machaut was the greatest composer of the 14th century and these motet performances by The Clerks’ Group help to show us why. They are simply ravishing – and perhaps produced partly in response to the Gothic Voices versions on their “Mirror of Narcissus” disc (Hyperion). Take, for example, Dame/Fins cuers doulz: the Gothic Voices version has immaculate tuning and adventurous added accidentals, though a rather uniform surface; here it is sung faster, with almost the same musical standards, but also as though every word means something to the singers. The same wonderful display of the poetry can also be heard in the performance of Lasse/Se j’aim mon loyal ami.
The Czech group Ars Cameralis have been performing Machaut for years. Indeed, two of the items on their disc – Ploures dames and Armes, amours – appeared on their 1978 recording “Homage to Machaut” (Panton), though in different versions. There is some nice, flexible singing here (especially from the tenor in Se je souspir), and the performances are lively, if erratic. But the textures are often garbled by the combination of voice and instruments and, for a lesson in how to make sense of Dame mon cuer, for example, one needs to hear the Gothic Voices recording mentioned above. Anthony Pryer