Classical The best music site on the web there is where you can read about and listen to blues, jazz, classical music and much more. This is your ultimate music resource. Tons of albums can be found within. Sat, 24 Feb 2024 21:12:13 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb 1000 - A Mass for the End of Time (2000) 1000 - A Mass for the End of Time (2000)

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1. Processional Hymn: Judicii signum 6:13
2. Troped Introit: Quem creditis super astra/Viri galilei10:03
3. Kyrie: Celestis terrestrisque 5:34
4. Gloria: Prudentia prudentium 6:05
5. Alleluia I: Dominus in sina 3:25
6. Alleluia II: Ascendens cristus 4:56
7. Sequence with Prose: Salvator mundi/Rex omnipotens die hodierna 8:15
8. Troped Offertory: Elevatus est rex fortis/Viri galilei 8:29
9. Sanctus: Ante secula 2:50
10. Agnus Dei: Omnipotens eterne 3:03
11. Troped Communion: Corpus quod nunc/Psallite domino 2:34
12. Lection: Apocalypse 21:1-5 2:41
13. Prose: Regnantem sempiterna 2:37
14. Hymn: Cives celestis patrie 5:39

Anonymous 4 (Vocal Ensemble)


Remember all of the year-2000 nervousness in the latter part of 1999? That was nothing. As the year 1000 approached, people all over the Christian world were convinced that the Apocalypse--as depicted in the biblical Book of Revelation--and the end of the world were at hand. In one of the more interesting musical program ideas to be inspired by the turn of the calendrical odometer, Anonymous 4 revisits the original "millennium madness" with a disc of chant from around the year 1000--specifically, a Mass for the Feast of the Ascension, one of the few occasions on which the liturgy included readings from the Book of Revelation. This is the oldest written Western music to have survived, and it's difficult even to decipher (the original notation has no staff lines or clear indications of rhythm), let alone perform. Yet, the challenges involved seem to have done these ladies good: not only is their performance both assured and confident, but one can hear new facets in their vocal sound--a sound that, however beautiful it might be, some listeners find monotonous. (One new facet is Jacqueline Horner, the quartet's newest member, for whom this is the first recording.) The singers experiment with interpretation of ornaments that are indicated in the manuscript sources (there's a fascinating little trill that sounds rather like a cooing dove); in some of the chants, they add an additional line in accordance with the principles of improvising polyphony that were laid out in 10th- and 11th-century treatises. The entire program seems thoroughly considered, as well as immaculately executed. If you count on the consistently pure, silky tone and meditative quality that has made Anonymous 4 world-famous, you'll definitely find it here; if you've gotten bored with them, you might find this disc a fascinating surprise. --Matthew Westphal,

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]]> (bluesever) Medieval Music Mon, 26 Apr 2010 20:04:35 +0000
Bright Day Star (2009) Bright Day Star (2009)

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Christmas Traditional
1. Ding Dong! Merrily on High (French)
2. The Old Year Now Away Is Fled
Christmas Traditional
3. Christmas Day in da Mornin'
4. The Cherry Tree Carol
Nickolaus Hermann
5. Wir singen dir, Immanuel
Christmas Traditional
6. The Wren Song (Irish)
7. A Wassail tune (Chestnut)
William Sandys
8. Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day
John Bull
9. Een Kindeken Is Ons Geboren for keyboard in G
John Stainer
10. The Bellman's Carol
Christmas Traditional
11. Jesus born in Bethn'y, Christmas jig
Michael Praetorius
12. Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming), instrumental arrangements
Johann Michael Bach
13. In Dulci Jubilo, for organ
Christmas Traditional
14. Rorate coeli desuper
15. Drive the cold winter away
Thomas Ravenscroft
16. Remember, O thou man (from Melismata, 1611)
Michael Praetorius
17. Der Quempas (Quem pastores laudavere)
Christmas Traditional
18. Christmas is my name
Giovanni Giacomo Gastoldi
19. In dir ist Freude
Christmas Traditional
20. Hey for Christmas!

The Baltimore Consort:
Chris Norman: wooden flute, 
Ronn Mcfarlane: lute, 
Mark Cudek: bandora, cittern, viol ,
Custer Larue: soprano, 
Larry Lipkis: viol, recorder, gemshorn, 
Mary Anne Ballard:rebec, viol, 
Webb Wiggins: organ


Had enough of animated snowmen and over-sweetened carol arrangements? Here's a hugely enjoyable recording of songs and dances done with flair by the Baltimore Consort. There are a few familiar tunes, such as the lilting arrangement of "Ding, Dong Merrily On High" and a beautiful solo flute version of "Lo, How a Rose 'Er Blooming." But most the songs are off the beaten track, and are therefore fresh and new despite their antiquity. Custer LaRue brings feeling and energy into the songs. This has become the most played Christmas CD in our household. --- Frederick Lauritzen,


One of the finest Christmas recordings ever made, this 1994 production by the Baltimore Consort makes a welcome return (complete with a new cover) along with the revival of the Dorian label. Glowing with the high, clear soprano of Custer LaRue and brimming with versatile, virtuoso instrumental work by Mary Anne Ballard (viols, rebec), Mark Cudek (cittern, Baroque guitar, viols, bandora), Larry Lipkis (viol, recorder, gemshorn), Ronn McFarlane (lute), Chris Norman (wooden flutes, pennywhistle), and Webb Wiggins (organ), this program literally lives up to the promise of its title.

Many of these 20 tunes/carols/dances are among the most familiar Christmas standards--Ding dong merrily on high; Greensleeves; Es ist ein' Ros' entsprungen; In dulci jubilo; The Cherry Tree Carol; Tomorrow shall be my dancing day--presented in both vocal/instrumental and strictly instrumental arrangements. But whatever the tune, and however it's presented, the result is invariably engaging, artful, classy, and infinitely repeatable, which means it's perfect for multiple repetitions, whether at Christmas or any other time of year. Chris Norman's flute improvisation on "Es ist ein' Ros' entsprungen" is a classic, and Custer LaRue's rendition of the beautiful "Rorate coeli desuper" is not to be missed. In fact, that last instruction applies to this entire disc. If you're a Christmas music fan (and who isn't?) and you don't already own this CD, you know what you have to do. --- David Vernier,

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]]> (bluesever) Medieval Music Tue, 13 Dec 2011 19:21:25 +0000
Carmina Celtica (2010) Carmina Celtica (2010)

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01. Salve splendor (00:01:03)
02. Os mutorum (00:04:29)
03. Confessor Dei (00:00:57)
04. O quam mirabilis (00:03:57)
05. Green grow the rushes (00:02:33)
06. Lorica (00:05:21)
07. Flower Garland (00:03:53)
08. Five Lauds Antiphons (00:03:25)
09. Inviolata, integra et casta es, Maria (00:02:53)
10. Through the wood, laddie (00:04:23)
11. Shining Light (00:05:49)
12. Beatus Gallus (00:03:16)
13. There is nothing brighter than the sun (00:02:25)
14. A solis occasu (00:02:40)
15. Ubi flumen praesulis (00:04:44)
16. Sacrosanctam Kentegernus (00:01:58)
17. The Stars in their Courses (00:03:43)
18. Two Hadiths (00:09:15)

Harp – William Taylor
Vocals – Anne Lewis, Joanne Wicks, Micaela Haslam, Rebecca Tavener 
Ensemble – Canty 
Director – Rebecca Tavener 


It would be easy to conclude that this release by the Scots medieval ensemble Canty represented an attempt to milk the perenniallly successful sales lodes of sensuously sung plainchant and Celtic music, but that's not really what it's about. The Celtic element, largely in the manifestation of William Taylor's Celtic harp, flavors the whole, but it's not really the central point. Instead the program is based on a linkage of medieval and modern choral material. The medieval pieces, some of them monophonic and some polyphonic, come from a variety of Scottish sources. They're interspersed, generally alternating but sometimes in pairs, with contemporary pieces that expand on medieval sounds. The mood is generally contemplative and sweet, but the strength of this release lies in the variety of the program within these parameters: the contemporary composers, most of whom are Scottish, make different uses of the medieval models. You might find fault with several aspects of this recording if you were in the mood. John Tavener's Two Hadiths, which concludes the program, is both theologically (hadiths are sayings ascribed to Muhammad) and musically (with its extended vocal effects) a shift from the rest of the program, although it's a lovely example of Tavener's new ecumenical style in itself. And the sheer surface beauty of the sound tends to distract you from the musical detail a bit. But this will nonetheless be a satisfying album for a wide range of audiences, from the meditatively inclined to fans of Celtic roots to those interested in contemporary resonances of medieval musical ideas. ---James Manheim, AllMusic Review

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]]> (bluesever) Medieval Music Thu, 05 Sep 2019 15:02:31 +0000
Ce Diabolic Chant - Ballades, Rondeaus & Virelais (2007) Ce Diabolic Chant - Ballades, Rondeaus & Virelais (2007)

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1. Johannes Suzoy (Jo Susay) Ballade: Prophilias, un des nobles de Roume play
2. Ballade: A l'arbre sec puis etre comparé
3. Ballade: Pictagoras, Jabol et Orpheüs
4. Jacob (Jacquemin de) Senleches Ballade: Je me merveil / J'ai pluseurs fois
5. Virelai: En ce gracieux tamps joli
6. Ballade: Fuions de ci, fuions, povre compaingne
7. Guido: Rondeau: Dieux gart qui bien le chantera
8. Ballade: Or voit tout en avanture
9. Jacob (Jacquemin de) Senleches Virelai: La Harpe de melodie
10. Ballade: En attendant esperance conforte
11. Virelai: Tel me voit et me regarde
12. Johannes Olivier Ballade: Si con cy gist mon cuer en grief martire
13. Johannes Galiot Ballade: Le sault perilleux a l'aventure prins play
14. Rondeau: En atendant d'avoir la douce vie
15. Anon. Ballade: En Albion de fluns environee
16. Anon.: Rondeau: Se j'ay perdu toute ma part

The Medieval Ensemble of London:
Margaret Philpot (alto), Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor), Paul Elliott (tenor), Michael George (baritone), Geoffrey Shaw (baritone),
Robert Cooper (rebec, fiddle), Peter Davies (dulcian, harp), Timothy Davies (gittern, lute)
Peter Davies & Timothy Davies – director

Kingsway Hall, London, UK [01/1982]
Rel.: 1983


In the history of western music, the works of the late Medieval period are among the most foreign-sounding to modern ears -- they can delight those who love musical novelty, but can seem just plain odd to listeners who are most at home in the Baroque/Classical/Romantic repertoire. The music often has a strong but irregular or shifting pulse, with what feels like dropped or extra beats; an exaggeratedly melismatic style of text setting, in which a single syllable can be stretched over what seems like pages; an angular style of counterpoint, in which the voices may appear to have little logic in their relationships; and harmonies that operate on principles that might have come from a distant culture, if not another planet. Welcome to the world of the ars subtilior, the musical avant-garde of the late fourteenth century.

This recording, made in 1982 by the Medieval Ensemble of London, led by Peter and Timothy Davies, is historic because it was the first to apply the principles of the historical performance movement to this repertoire, and it includes the complete works of five of the most significant French composers of the period. The vocal ensemble performs some of the ballades, rondeaux, and virelais a cappella, and some accompanied by a small instrumental ensemble. (Most recent research has determined that all of these pieces are appropriate to be sung unaccompanied.) The group sings with purity and precision, gives the oddly metered music the punch it needs to make a full impact, and doesn't shy away from its contrapuntal and harmonic eccentricities. The music is so engagingly original, and it's performed with such spark and high energy, that this CD should appeal to adventurous listeners who enjoy being challenged by music from off the beaten path. ~ Stephen Eddins, Rovi All Music Guide

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]]> (bluesever) Medieval Music Wed, 03 Nov 2010 20:07:30 +0000
Chants de L'Eglise de Rome - Période byzantine Chants de L'Eglise de Rome - Période byzantine (1986)

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1. O Pimenon Ton Ishrahil, alleluia
2. Haec Dies, gradual
3. Pascha nostrum, alleluia
4. Terra Tremuit, offertory
5. Epi Si Kyrie, alleluia
6. Pascha Nostrum, communion
7. O Kirios ke Basileusen, alleluia

Ensemble Organum
Marcel Pérès – conductor


Old Roman chant occupies a central position. It provides the key to the musical affiliation between Jerusalem and the Greek heritage, while also enabling us to understand the treasures of Koranic cantillation. The mystery of the incarnation of the Word irrigates the chants presented here. Through the magic of music, sung texts become icons. The Word is deployed with a sovereign slowness which confers on the sound a hieratic immanence in which time and space are united in a single vibrant truth.

The mystery of the Incarnation of the Word lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It is celebrated just after the longest night of the year, when (in the Northern Hemisphere) the days begin to lengthen until we reach the summer solstice, which is associated with the figure of John the Baptist. To celebrate this moment, the Church deploys an exceptional - virtually uninterrupted - liturgical cycle in which the usual Offices are interspersed with four Masses. The musical anthology presented here traverses some of the great moments of these four Masses of the Nativity. The music is that of the ancient chant of the Church of Rome, one of the oldest repertories of which traces have remained in the collective memory of mankind. Up to the thirteenth century this repertory accompanied the papal liturgy. It disappeared with the installation of the papacy in Avignon, and sank into oblivion. Rediscovered in the early twentieth century, it aroused little enthusiasm among musicians, and only began to be studied properly, first from the liturgical, then from the musicological perspective, in the second half of the century. At this time, to distinguish it from Gregorian chant, it was named 'Old Roman chant'. Old Roman chant occupies a central position. It provides the key to the musical affiliation between Jerusalem and the Greek heritage, while also enabling us to understand the treasures of Koranic cantillation.---

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]]> (bluesever) Medieval Music Thu, 07 Jun 2012 09:58:27 +0000
Codex de Chantilly - Airs de Cour du XIV Siècle (1987) Codex de Chantilly - Airs de Cour du XIV Siècle (1987)

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1 	–Cunelier 	Se Galaas Et Le Puissant Artus (Ballade, Fol. 38) 	
2 	–Guido  	Dieux Gart (Rondeau, Fol. 25) 	
3 	–Anonymous 	Sans Joie Avoir (Ballade, Fol. 23) 	
4 	–Guido  	Or Voit Tout (Ballade, Fol. 25v) 	
5 	–Anonymous 	Toute Clerté (Ballade, Fol. 13) 	
6 	–Baude Cordier 	Tout Par Compas (Rondeau - Canon, Fol. 12) 	
7 	–Baude Cordier 	Belle, Bonne, Sage (Rondeau, Fol. 11v) 	
8 	–Goscalch 	En Nul Estat (Ballade, Fol. 39v) 	
9 	–Jacob de Senleches 	La Harpe De Mellodie (Fol. 43v) 	
10 	–Solage 	Fumeux Fume Par Fumée (Rondeau, Fol. 59) 	
11 	–François Andrieu 	Armes, Amours (Double Ballade, Fol. 52) 	
12 	–Anonymous 	Adieu Vous Di (Fol. 47)

Ensemble Organum:
Baritone Vocals – Josep Cabré (tracks: 1, 2, 4-6, 8, 10)
Bass Vocals – François Fauché (tracks: 5, 10, 11)
Countertenor Vocals – Gérard Lesne (tracks: 1, 2, 4, 6-8, 11)
Tenor Vocals – Josep Benet (tracks: 1, 2, 4 to 8, 10, 11)
Vielle – Nanneke Schaap
Directed By, Harpsichord [Clavicythérium Émile Jobin] – Marcel Pérès


The Chantilly Codex is the pivotal music document of the 14th century and one of the monuments of medieval music. Many of the shadowy greats of early French composition--including Solage, Cordier, and Andrieu--are represented here. The music of the ars subtilior--the subtle art--is eccentric, whimsical, extravagant; it contains the widest diversity of emotion. The Ensemble Organum, directed by Marcel Pérès, performs these works with stylistic deftness. --Joshua Cody,

The Chantilly Codex, apparently compiled shortly before 1400, is easily the most famous manuscript of the Ars Subtilior. The bulk of the works apparently date from c.1370-95, with the possible exception of Baude Cordier's famous "puzzle" rondeaus added at the beginning of the manuscript. It has been suggested that Cordier (fl. 1384-1398) was the editor for the codex. The primary locations at which this music was written were the courts of the Antipope in Avignon and of Foix, both in southern France.

The items in the manuscript include some songs dating back to Machaut and his contemporaries, and then later pieces for which Machaut's most elaborate songs apparently served as inspiration. The rondeaus of Cordier are notated in the shape of a circle (track #9; canonic) and a heart (track #12) and represent this style at its most obscure.

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]]> (bluesever) Medieval Music Sat, 22 Jun 2019 14:45:46 +0000
Codex Las Huelgas (Paul Van Nevel) [1993] Codex Las Huelgas (Paul Van Nevel) [1993]

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Music from 13th Century Spain
1. Ex illustri nata prosapia
2. Crucifigat omnes
3. O Maria maris stella
4. Ex agone sanguinis
5. Belial vocatur
6. Sanctus
7. Agnus Dei
8. Benedicamus Domino
9. Flavit auster
10. Eya mater
11. Quis dabit capiti
12. Casta catholica
13. Homo miserabilis

Huelgas Ensemble:
Catherine Jousscllin - cantus
Christine Gahrielle Madar - cantus
Nele Minten - cantus
Marie-Claude Vallin - cantus
Katelijne Van Laethem - cantus

Bart Coen - soprano, alto and tenor recorder
Peter de Clercq - tenor and bassett recorder
An Van La et hem - fiddle
René Van Laken - fiddle, rebec

Paul Van Nevel - conductor


Just how engaging, catchy, lively, and artful can 13th century Spanish music be? Very, as evidenced by this collection of motets, conductus, mass movements, and strophic songs from the legendary manuscript compiled at the 12th-century Cistercian convent at Las Huelgas. This remarkable program, highlighting only a handful of the nearly 200 works contained in the original manuscript, shows not only the beauty and inventiveness of sacred music of this period, but also how colorful and varied it could be. And just how well sung and played is it? Impressively, as shown by these five exceptional female voices and period instrumentalists from the superb Huelgas Ensemble. Instruments--recorders, fiddles, rebec, and percussion--are sparingly and effectively used, and the singers treat us to exciting yet rarely heard ornamentation, an ancient art that sounds eerily modern. --David Vernier,


The Huelgas Ensemble was founded by director Paul Van Nevel in 1971. It has specialized in choral music, frequently with instrumental support, from the thirteenth century on to the early Baroque. Their recordings of the High Renaissance have been especially prized. They have also been pioneers in the performance of the difficult Ars Subtilior repertory of the late medieval era. ---

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]]> (bluesever) Medieval Music Wed, 17 Jun 2015 16:41:50 +0000
Constantinople - Musique du moyen age et de la Renaissance (2001) Constantinople - Musique du moyen age et de la Renaissance (2001)

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1. Branle de la haye  (Arbeau)  [4:20]
2. Branle d'Escosse  (Arbeau)  [2:57]
3. Branle du village  (Balard)  [5:58]

4. Pazzo e Mezzo  (anonyme)  [2:06]

5. Hardi  (Radif)  [2:20]
6. Yekchoubeh  (Radif)  [1:24]

7. Saltarello  (anonyme)  [2:58]

8. Estampie anglaise  (anonyme)  [4:39]

9. Sospitati dedit egros  (anonyme)  [2:52]
10. Mignonne allons  (anonyme)  [3:38]
11. Saltarello  (anonyme)  [2:44]

Cancionero Musical de Palacio
12. La Tricotea  (Alonso)  [2:42]
13. So el Enzina  (anonyme)  [2:52]
14. Tres morillas  (anonyme)  [2:23]
15. Danza alta  (Torre)  [3:44]
16. Un amiga tengo  (Enzina)  [1:35]
17. Tir'alla, que non quiero  (Alonso)  [2:38]
18. Callabaza no sé  (anonyme)  [2:42]
19. Al alva venid  (anonyme)  [2:36]
20. Rodrigo Martinez  (anonyme)  [2:09]
21. Fata la parte  (Enzina)  [3:02]
22. Pedro, i bien te quiero  (Enzina)  [1:27]
23. Todos los bienes del mundo  (Enzina)  [5:10]

Kiya Tabassian — setar
Mike Cole — lute
Isabelle Marchand — viola da gamba
Matthew Jennejohn — recorders
Ziya Tabassian — tombak, dayereh, daf, def, percussions


The Constantinople ensemble has been in existence for four years. Its name comes from the legendary city of Constantinople, which for centuries was the point of confluence and exchange between the cultures of East and West. This musical ensemble, of variable format, thus thrives on two geographically distant cultural and musical worlds, those of Iran and of Europe. These two cultures, although far apart today, were at certain times continually exchanging in areas such as the sciences, the arts, and philosophy, in some instances yielding fruitful results.

Constantinople seeks to rekindle this spirit by delving into the musical heritage of the Medieval and Renaissance periods. The ensemble especially endeavours to recreate a rich and living utterance, based on creativity and on the knowledge of classical Persian art music and the early music of Europe. This means creating a musical language that gives free reign to improvisation and fancy while upholding and respecting the basic forms of those musical eras.

The ensemble's instrumentation is rather unique: The use of the setar as a solo instrument opens a new vista in the performance of Medieval and Renaissance music.

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]]> (bluesever) Medieval Music Sat, 31 Aug 2019 14:26:30 +0000
Crusaders - In Nomine Domini (1996) Crusaders - In Nomine Domini (1996)

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1 	Allelujah (Choral) 	1:51
2 	Seigneurs, Sachiez (Lyrics By – Thibaut IV)	3:15
3 	Chanterai Por Mon Corage  (Lyrics By – Guiot de Dijon)	6:12
4 	Maugréz Touz Sainz (Lyrics By [First Part] – Huon d'Oisi)	5:54
5 	Imperator Rex Graecorum 	5:13
6 	Crux Fidelis (Choral) 	0:41
7 	Quant Amors Trobet Partit (Lyrics By – Peirol)	5:26
8 	Ich Han Nach Lieben Friunde (Lyrics By – Wolfram von Eschenbach)	5:02
9 	Ahi, Amors (Lyrics By – Conon de Bethune)	5:13
10 	Lamento Di Tristano / Rotta (Lyrics By – Anonym)	4:11
11 	Palästinalied (Lyrics By – Walther von der Vogelweide)	4:41
12 	Gaudens In Domino 	2:47

Estampie (Ensemble):
Concept By [Konzeption], Leader [Leitung] – Michael Popp
Instruments [Instrumente], Vocals [Chor] – Cas Gevers, Ernst Schwindl, Hannes Schanderl,
 Johann Bengen, Michael Popp, Tobias Schlierf 
Vocals [Sologesang] – Alexander Veljanov, Syrah, Tobias Schlierf 
Choir [Choräle] – Schola Cantorum Gedanensis


This one is definitely not for mediæval purists. They have played with the simple lines of the source material, using all sorts of studio effects, although the basic music is presented using vocals and acoustic instruments. This experimental approach works quite well.

And what they do with it comes off quite well. Big, boomy reverb, vocal drones, and some excellent drumming add stature to these songs.

You get not only relatively well known mediæval pieces like -Chanterai por mon corage- and -Palastinalied-, two of the better tracks on the record, but also interesting music I was not as familiar with. -Imperator rex græcorum- is another standout track, given a nicely dramatic reading here. ---S. Gustafson,


This album is one that brings me to distant, long ago yet ageless lands, among a people who live in magic and the mystery of life. The male singer has a rich, deep beautiful voice and the female singer's voice is beautiful also and perfectly matched with the music. The music itself a superb mixture of medeival music (including some chant) with a modern touch. The drum piece is incredible. The album is sung in french, but for me, not being able to understand the words just enables me to focus all the more on the music. Historically intriguing, also! ---jeremy,

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]]> (bluesever) Medieval Music Sun, 24 Jun 2018 15:15:12 +0000
Cypriot Advent Antiphons (Huelgas Ensemble) [2014] Cypriot Advent Antiphons (Huelgas Ensemble) [2014]

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1 	Nos Demoramur - O Sapientia Incarnata 	  	06:42 	 
2 	Pictor Eterne Syderum - O Adonay Domus Israel 	  	06:34 	 
3 	Cunti Fundent Precamina - O Radix Yesse Splendida 	  	06:57 	 
4 	Quis Igitur Aperiet - O Clavis David Aurea 	  	05:58 	 
5 	Veni Splendor Mirabilis - Lucis Eterne Splendor 	  	08:38 	 
6 	Quis Possit Dignexprimere - O Rex Virtutum Gloria 	  	05:50 	 
7 	Magne Virtutum Conditor - O Emanuel Rex Noster 	  	05:32 	 
8 	Tu Nati Nata Suscipe - O Sacra Virgo Virginum 	  	07:13 	 
9 	Homo Mortalis Firmiter - Hodie Puer Nascitur 	  	03:45

Josep Cabré, Marie-Claude Vallin, Katelijne van Laethem (vocal soloists)
Willem Bremer, Bart Coen (recorders)
René van Laken (rebec, fiddle)
Wim Becu, Willy Verdievel, Harry Ries (bass trombones)
Jean-Yves Guerry, Anne Mertens, Nele Minten, Godfried van de Vyvere, Rika Wouters (chorus)
Paul van Nevel – director

Anonymous c.1390

Recorded in the chapel of the Irish Friar-College, Leuven, 17-19 June 1989


From 1189 up to 1492, the isle of Cyprus was a European outpost under French rule. In this period, the island was populated by a huge number of European immigrants, mainly French. The blend of the imported Roman Catholic and the Greek Byzantine religions led to situations as described by Pope Honorius III, who complained in a letter to Alix de Champagne, Reine de Chypre (Queen of Cyprus), that Greek and Latin archbishops lived and worked under the same roof, and that chantres were singing in different languages at the same time!

The French kings of Cyprus under the leadership of the house of Lusignan installed a feudal structure in western fashion on the island, and the French cultural pattern was imposed upon the natives. Cyprus was visited by Kings, diplomats, artists and crusaders. The French gothic style was introduced in the field of architecture. In 1208, the rebuilding of Santa Sophia in Nicosia started: the choir is identical to that of Notre-Dame in Paris. The Kolossi, Kantara, Buffavento and Dieudamour castles were built in the European mode. The Limassol bastion is a copy of the one at Foix; the St.-Georges des-Lantins church in Famagusta and the church of La Sainte Chapelle in Paris are twins.

The pinnacle of cultural and musical prosperity lasted from 1359 to 1432. Several sovereigns turned this period into a golden era for Cyprus.

Pierre I de Lusignan went down in history as a kind of "sun king" of the island. He was famous mainly for his extensive travels in Europe. He was a great lover of the arts and promoted French music in Cyprus after he had visited the major European musical centers. None other than Guillaume de Machaut wrote an 8,000-line chronicle in honor of Pierre de Lusignan: "La Prise d'Alexandrie". Wherever the Cypriot royal household arrived on its European journey, it was received in great honor.

The musicians of the Cypriot court also created a furor during this journey. When the Cypriot entourage visited Charles V at Reims, the latter gained such a high opinion of the royal musicians that he paid 80 gold Francs "... pur les minestriers du roi de Chypre".

During the reign of Pierre II (13691382), the influence of the French ars nova on Cypriot music was incontestable. Many French musicians joined the royal chapel, and Cypriot music gradually drifted toward ars subtilior. The last sovereign important for Cypriot music was Janus I of Lusignan. This king had not only the most luxurious, but also the most turbulent reign. Janus was constantly at war with the Saracens, the Genoese and the Venetians. However he took advantage of every opportunity to present the numerous European visitors to his court with deafening and blinding splendor.

Khabil Dhabeir, the chronicler of Sultan Al-Malec-al-Ascharf Barsebai, describes the palace of Janus as follows: "... furthermore, the palace had sumptuous beds and extraordinarily tasteful and expensive furniture. Splendid paintings and gold and silver crosses hung on the walls. However, my master mainly admired a huge organ, which produced the most wonderful sounds when the keys were touched."

Notwithstanding, the reign of Janus ushers in the decay of French rule in Cyprus. But the modern music-lover owes King Janus a debt of gratitude, for when his daughter Anna married Count Louis of Geneva, her dowry included a manuscript that remains the only source of Cypriot music.

This Cypriot manuscript is now at the Biblioteca Nazionale in Turin under the signature Ms. J. 11.9. The manuscript contains liturgical music for the office and mass, polyphonic Glorias and Credos, motets and secular music.

The polyphonic "O"-Antiphons are part of the third section, the 41 motets in the French style. The cycle of nine antiphons (there are actually 8 antiphons and a final motet) is meant for four voices, in which the duplum (second voice) and triplum (first voice) have different texts and the contratenor and the tenor are instrumental parts without texts, consisting mainly of ligatures.

The "O"-Antiphons are sung at vespers during the week before Christmas, as an antiphon to the Magnificat. They are called "O"-Antiphons as they all start with the acclamation "O". Initially, the Gregorian cycle consisted of seven "O"-Antiphons, of which the first antiphon, "O sapientia", was sung at vespers on December 17th, the second, "O Adonay", on December 18th, and so on, until the last antiphon, "O Emmanuel", was performed on December 23th. To this cycle the late Middle Ages added an antiphon that was sung on December 24th. This antiphon is mainly devoted to the Virgin Mary as a medium for the advent of Christ; it was probably added in response to the enormously popular cult of the Virgin. As a rule this antiphon was the popular "O Virgo Virginum", which is the Cypriot cycle's eighth motet in a troped form.

However, the Cypriot cycle contains a local deviation: the series ends with a ninth motet, which fully connects with the previous eight motets as far as tonality and rhythmic order are concerned. Regarding lyrics and musical expression, this antiphon represents the culmination and the climax of the cycle. The motet was sung on Christmas Day and it contrasts with the supplicatory tone of the preceding antiphons. The text has a triumphant air, although it does not start with the typical acclamation "O".

All the texts of this cycle are strongly troped. The ones of the triplum parts are extensions of the liturgical antiphon texts. The duplum texts deviate more sharply from the original Gregorian version, and paraphrase the idea of the coming of Christ. Tropes start as early as the opening words of the triplum texts, to such an extent that the original words can be retraced only with great difficulty. In the fifth motet, "Lucis eterne", even the characteristic "O" declamation has disappeared.

The underlying text must be considered to be very special. The words are exclusively a function of the polyphonic autonomy and triplum. It is used in a pointillistic way and supports the melodic and rhythmic articulation. The intelligibility of the text is of secondary importance; indeed, the text is to a great extent rendered unintelligible, since the duplum and triplum have different texts at the same time. The course of the text is always subject to the most capricious rhythmic evolutions and accentuations, so that the "playing with sounds", the phonetic expression, dominates clarity and recitation. In this fashion, the syllables of one word are often separated by breaks. The end of a sentence in the text doesn't always coincide with the end of a musical sentence at all. In this manner, a new talea (rhythmic period) often happens to coincide with the last word (or even syllable) of the previous sentence. Many hoquetus-figures don't make use of melismas either, but place another syllable on each note instead. It would be a denial of the perfect notation of this manuscript without ambiguity and with a very consequent application of the character of the ars subtilior aesthetics, to try and make the underlying text conform more to "seconda prattica" rules or with Renaissance comprehension of written music. Indeed, the central idea of the Cypriot "O"-Antiphons' style of composition is the ideal of the most extreme polyphony, with all its consequences. Every voice of the polyphonic texture is completely independent in range and has its own autonomous profile. By using syncopation, color, alteration, imperfection and proportions, stresses never coincide in the duplum and triplum regularly.

The complex rhythmic polyphony of the duplum and triplum contrast with the rhythmic properties of contratenor and tenor that mostly evolve in a perfect mode and represent another tempo order. These voices evolve much more slowly. Consequently, an enormous space emerges between both polyphonic "blocks": the duplum and triplum on the one hand and the tenor and contratenor on the other. This implies consequences on a vertical level as well. False relations and unresolved dissonances originate mainly between the two different groups, and rarely between the voices of the same group.

Another striking characteristic of these motets is the use of the isorhythmic principle, applied in all the works of the cycle without exception. Moreover, this principle is applied in all parts, and in most cases the Talea are equally long in all parts. This provides the motets with a very well-organized structure. As far as modality is concerned, the cycle of nine "O"-Antiphons is structured in pairs. Motets 1 and 2 are written in the Dorian mode; motets 3 and 4 are in the Lydian mode; 5 and 6 are Hypolydian, whereas 7 and 8 are as composed in the Hypomixolydian mode. The local appendix, the Christmas antiphon, returns to the mode of the first motets.

The Cypriot Advent cycle can be considered one of the musical highlights of an era in which all attention was focused on the exuberant use of all possible rhythmicpolyphonic structures. For the interpretation of this ars subtilior music, the Huelgas Ensemble kept as close as possible to the principles of the detailed realisation of the polyphony.

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]]> (bluesever) Medieval Music Wed, 09 Dec 2015 17:06:30 +0000