COMPOSERS: Benet,Dunstaple,Frye,Mowere,Pyamour,Trouluffe & Anon
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: The Call of the Phoenix
WORKS: 15th-century English church music
PERFORMER: Orlando Consort
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907297
There was a time in the 15th century when England led the rest of Europe in musical innovation. Musicians such as Dunstaple, Benet and Frye produced a new style full of suave melodies, fluid rhythms and sweet harmonies, and their works were often carried to the continent and can be found in manuscripts there still. This recording gives us a fascinating glimpse of that repertoire, almost lost in the flames of the Reformation (hence the title, The Call of the Phoenix), and it contains some marvellous performances, as in the vertiginous duetting of Pyamour’s ‘Quam pulcra es’, the riotous closing textures of Benet’s ‘Credo’, and the bravura roulades of the anonymous ‘Gaude virgo’.
This forthright style of the Orlando Consort is accompanied by immaculate tuning, rhythmic concision and clear articulation of the text. Without doubt it is a notable group, but comparisons are not always in its favour. The Hilliard Ensemble, for example, has also recorded two works found here – Dunstaple’s ‘Salve scema’ (on Virgin Veritas) and Frye’s ‘Ave regina’ (on ECM) – but it adopts a slightly slower pace, a less dry acoustic and a more pliant approach to individual phrases. There may be food for thought here. Anthony Pryer