Machaut: The Dart of Love

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COMPOSERS: Machaut
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: The Dart of Love
PERFORMER: The Orlando Consort
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 68008

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This is the second disc that the Orlando Consort has devoted to the music of the 14th-century composer Guillaume de Machaut. The previous one, Songs from Le Voir Dit (released in 2013), consisted of just nine items taken from a long poem that Machaut wrote about his love for a girl called Peronne. Here we get a mix of 13 songs and motets taken from across his output, sung with suavity and control.

The Ballades are the most varied, ranging from the beautifully liquid duet, ‘Helas tant ay doleur’, to the gritty, gnarled textures of ‘Il m’est avis’. A great revelation was the sweet harmoniousness of ‘Sans cuer, dolens’, sung in a newly corrected edition by Plumley and Palmer. (Previous editions – and performances – bring in the top voice too early.)

The performers seem most at home in the motets with secular words, and ‘Quant en moy/Amour’ provides a lesson in quiet poise and ensemble, while the new edition offers some interesting differences in the use of inserted sharps and flats (musica ficta) from that found in the old edition by Leo Schrade. The solo virelai, ‘Ay mi’, however, revealed the limitations of the generally cautious exactitude of the singing. It is fluently and sweetly performed but without the rhetorical flourish and sensitive flexibility found in Andrew Tusa’s version on The Spirits of England and France, Volume 1 (Hyperion).

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Anthony Pryer