Machaut, Cornysh, Fayrfax, Tye, Janequin, Bach

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bach,Cornysh,Fayrfax,Janequin,Machaut,Tye
LABELS: Glossa
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: The Passion of Reason
WORKS: Works by Machaut, Cornysh, Fayrfax, Tye, Janequin, Bach,
PERFORMER: The Sour Cream Legacy
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 921102
A couple of things strike one immediately. First, the bizarre name of the ensemble. It conceals performers of the stature of Frans Brüggen, Kees Boeke and Walter van Hauwe, all of whom play recorders (not flutes as the sleeve has it), with Boeke contributing also on the viola da gamba. Second, the set’s title. This refers to the subtle eternally shifting balance between the logical and the emotional in music, implying through its choice of pieces of highly organised music ranging from Machaut’s palindromic Ma fin est mon commencement to Bach’s Canon per augmentationem, that the arithmetical has a pure, passionate beauty of its own. There are 14 pieces on each disc, the accent upon English music. Works by William Cornysh, Thomas Preston, Bedyngham, Fayrfax and Nathanial Giles jostle with pieces by Solage, Brumel, Heinrich Isaac and Johann Walter (a dizzying Canon), and, in the case of four Kyries from the Baldwin Part Books in Oxford, the prolific Anon.

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The only annotation included is a (fine) philosophical essay by Boeke based on the writings of Boethius et al. To get the lowdown on the pieces the listener is advised to visit Glossa’s smart internet site. At the time of writing, the relevant web page had not been compiled, and in any case the number of music lovers to whom the internet is anathema is legion. But the playing is exquisite and intimate, the recording beautiful, though with clearly audible birdsong in the background. With or without explication, it’s beguiling. Stephen Pettitt