- Guillaume de Machaut- The Flower Among Flowers [Recommended Recordings]
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28 October, 2012
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Guillaume de Machaut
Recommended Recordings

Dreams in the Pleasure Garden
(Orlando Consort )
Just when you think you know somebody, some uncharacteristic behavior shows itself and you instantly realize that you have more to learn. Such an enlightening occurrence is bound to happen for listeners to this disc accustomed to hearing the "memorable tunes, regular phrasing, and clear harmony" of Machaut's most commonly performed works. Here, the four-member Orlando Consort--alto, two tenors, and baritone--happily and with masterful ease introduce us to the "other" Machaut, one of irregular phrases, lively syncopated rhythms, and long flowing melodies that interact contrapuntally with two or three other vocal lines. The melodic structure often consists of cleverly intertwined strings of suspensions followed by quick resolutions, giving a jumpy impetus to many lengthy passages and entire songs. Among these 14 secular songs are many beautiful poetic texts and some notable melodies, but, interestingly, Machaut didn't attempt to fit music with textual meaning. For us, it remains just to listen--and perhaps to read the words separately--and we are rewarded with some of the 14th century's most sensuous, intriguing, and exotic music. (review by David Vernier)

Early Music - Machaut: La Messe de Nostre Dame, Le Voir Dit
(Oxford Camerata, conducted by Jeremy Summerly )

Machaut and His Time - 14th Century French Ars Nova
(Alba Musica Kyo Ensemble)

Mirror of Narcissus - Songs of Machaut
(Gothic Voices, conducted by Christopher Page)
The second Gothic Voices recording was something of a milestone: the first recording of 14-century music performed by voices alone. The absence of instruments permits very precise tuning (no small matter in this repertory) and doesn't obscure Machaut's poetry (which was admired by no less than Geoffrey Chaucer). Belying its scholarly-but-dull reputation, Gothic Voices sings with plenty of energy and rhythmic snap; the monophonic songs, performed by a single unaccompanied voice, come off particularly well. The best example of this disc's achievement is the famous "Douce dame jolie," which has been done as everything from a catchy little ditty to a fife-and-drum march: Margaret Philpot performs it as what it is--the forlorn plea of a spurned lover. (review by Matthew Westphal)


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