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LABELS: Ambroisie
WORKS: Sederunt principes; Salvatoris hodie; Beata viscera
PERFORMER: Ensemble Gilles Binchois/Dominique Vellard


The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris was established in 1163 and, almost at the same time, we find there the first obviously gifted composers – Léonin and Pérotin. The works by Pérotin, in particular, are fiendishly difficult to sing, with their ecstatic, endless vocalised phrases, and they form the centrepiece of this new offering from the Ensemble Gilles Binchois. Unfortunately this CD is far from the best of their performances, and many of these works are available in much better recordings by David Munrow (on DHM), the Hilliard Ensemble (on Hilliard Live) and Red Byrd (on Hyperion). Take, for example, their attempt at Pérotin’s ‘Sederunt principes’. It is slow (14 minutes compared with 11 from Munrow and Hilliard), rhythmically stodgy, and it gets even slower towards the end when smaller note values appear: this kind of music seems to be slightly beyond these singers. Again, the beautiful, floating ‘Et valde mane’, presented so perfectly by Red Byrd, is earthbound and meandering here. There are some compensations, however, such as the particularly sweet and angelic halo of sound that emerges in ‘O Maria, mater pia’. But these sonorous effects are in no way equivalent to a proper musical experience.


Anthony Pryer