Various: La quête du graal, Vol. 2

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COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Dorian
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Perceval
WORKS: La quête du graal, Vol. 2
PERFORMER: Daniel Taylor (countertenor); La Nef
CATALOGUE NO: DOR-90294
Perceval, Knight of the Round Table, makes his first appearance in literature in a 12th-century French epic by Chrétien de Troyes. This is the second CD by La Nef devoted to retelling his quest for the Holy Grail. Perceval’s encounters are outlined in prose in the accompanying booklet and ‘illustrated’ with fragments of music and atmospheric songs, some newly composed, some borrowed from folk song (with French texts added) and some adapting medieval (but not related) chansons and plainsongs.

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The story itself was never set to music in the medieval period so it is rather difficult to know how to judge this presentation. It is odd to hear of the magical moment when the lance secretes drops of blood being recounted via a pretty duet sung to a recognisable Welsh folksong, but the overall effect is compelling. Occasionally the presentation of the songs requires a greater dramatic range – as in the original music (by Claire Gignac) for track 14, ‘La malédiction’, which has more than a little of the Edith Piaf about it. A CD for those who prefer fantasy to reality (or even imaginative reconstruction). Anthony Pryer