Matteo Da Perugia

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COMPOSERS: Matteo Da Perugia
WORKS: Puisque la mort; Laurea martirii Conlaudanda est; Trover ne puis; Helas Avril; Heylas que feray
PERFORMER: Huelgas Ensemble/Paul van Nevel
Matteo da Perugia (this recording favours the Matheus de Perusio version of his name) worked in Milan and died in 1418. His incredible compositions have prompted at least one musicologist (Heinrich Besseler) to suggest that he created an epoch in music history all of his own. In spite of this, almost nothing by Perugia has been recorded since the late Seventies when the Medieval Ensemble of London produced a disc of his songs on the L’Oiseau-Lyre label.


Now Paul van Nevel presents the great variety of his music, capturing nicely the archaic links with the style of Machaut in ‘Laurea martirii’ and the hints of the new ways of Dufay in the lively Gloria. These are sacred works, engagingly performed, but the songs are more problematic. ‘Heylas que feray’, for example, is at least as long as Schubert’s ‘Erlkönig’, and its switchback rhythms and odd harmonies demand an unremitting sense of direction. This is not in evidence, and the confusion is not helped by giving the inconsequential contratenor part to a voice, and the essential tenor part to an instrument. Again, the alert, Italianate bravura elements in the melody of ‘Trover ne puis’ are lost in the drifting ‘atmospherics’ of this version. This is an enjoyable introduction to Matteo’s astonishing works, but it is not the key to them. Anthony Pryer