COMPOSERS: Codax & anon
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Music for Alfonso the Wise
WORKS: find works
PERFORMER: Dufay Collective
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907390
This collection features music that ‘may well have been heard at the Court of Alfonso X’, although seven pieces, the ‘song cycle’ Cantigas de amigo by Martin Codax, almost certainly would not have been, since Codax had no known connection with the Court of Castile and Leon. So, not quite what it says on the tin, but who cares, given the high quality of the music and performances on this, the Dufay Collective’s debut recording for Harmonia Mundi?
Another issue that might exercise the purists is the heavy North African influence the Collective has incorporated. My ten cents says this approach is entirely legitimate, plausible and, probably, authentic. Whatever, it makes for vibrant, colourful and exciting listening. The CD opens with a quartet of marvellous instrumental tracks before we first hear Vivien Ellis in Que muyto meu pago, a paean to summer. As with the other songs by Airas Nunez and Joam Garcia de Guilhade, the music for the texts has not survived, and they are presented here set to melodies taken from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, the most celebrated collection associated with Alfonso. Ellis sings with clarity, conviction and verve, and the Collective plays with its customary panache and precision. Barry Witherden