COMPOSERS: Motets & Chansons from 13th-century France
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Marie et Marion
WORKS: Motets & Chansons from 13th-century France
PERFORMER: Anonymous 4
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 807524
The pieces on this recording mostly come from the amazing Montpellier Codex motet repertory, compiled probably in Paris c.1270-80. Anonymous 4’s first foray into this vast source came in their 1994 album, Love’s Illusion. In fact the two CDs share a piece – Plus bele/Quant revient/L’autrier joer/Flos filius – though here it seems more relaxed, and one of the singers (Johanna Rose) has been replaced by Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek.
This is not an easy repertory to get across. Most of the works are between two and three minutes long, with texts in medieval French and Latin. Here the 24 tracks are divided into themed sections based on either the adoration of the Virgin or songs about the coy love between Robin and Marion. Moreover, the performances are superbly recorded and have a kind of intimate clarity. Among these minor gems shining through the mists of eight centuries, there are some that stand out for sheer musical imagination – Quant florist/Et mois/Et gaudebant, for example, is an ingenious little patter-song, dainty and dissonant at the same time, and Pour chou/Li joli/Kyrie is a truly accomplished and moving composition. Each of the singers has a solo song: Marsha Genensky does relatively little with the formulaic repetitions of Amor me fait, but Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek shows us just what subtle vocal expression can bring to this repertory.