Great Recordings of Music from the Middle  Ages and Renaissance Part I

A Listmania! list by M. R. Simpson (St. Davids, PA)
The list author says: "The great composers of the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance are my favorite composers, next to Bach, Mozart, Handel, and Beethoven. This music quiets the soul. It is both meditative, and profoundly moving. I recall a particularly difficult time in my life when it was the only music that I could listen to, the only music that gave me comfort and peace.

Unfortunately, some of my favorite recordings are now "currently unavailable." Most notably-- 1) "Introitus": a wonderful compilation of highlights from early Hilliard Ensemble recordings on EMI, which includes some of the most essential shorter masterpieces of the Renaissance. ("Spiritus" is another fine Hilliard compilation on EMI.) 2) Heinrich Isaac: "Sacred and Secular Works," performed by the Hilliard Ensemble with instrumental accompaniment by the Kees Boeke Consort on EMI Reflexe. This is my all-time favorite Isaac recording (to purchase go to Amazon.de and type in Reflexe Vol. 10). 3) "Guillaume Dufay and His Times": a 2 CD set performed by Kees Otten and Syntagma Musicum on Teldec, with some beautiful singing from a young Rene Jacobs. 4) La Reverdie: "Voyage en Italie"--secular songs by Dufay, which I play a lot. 5) Dufay: "Missa L'Homme arme and Motets," including the beautiful "Nuper Rosarum Flores"--written for the opening of Brunelleschi's Duomo in Florence, and composed according to the proportions used in the building's design--performed here by the Hilliard Ensemble on EMI Reflexe--a treasure. 6) "Spain and the New World: Renaissance music from Aragon and Mexico," performed by the Hilliard Ensemble, on Virgin Veritas. 7) William Byrd: Masses, performed by the Hilliard Ensemble on EMI. All other performances of Byrd masses have been a disappointment since hearing this one. 8) William Bryd: "Consort Music and Songs," performed by Gerard Lesne and Ensemble Orlando Gibbons on Virgin Veritas. This disc includes the moving song "Ye Sacred Muses," written upon the death of Byrd's teacher Thomas Tallis."
Utopia Triumphans
1.  Utopia Triumphans by Huelgas Ensemble
The list author says:
  "This disc includes some of the most massive and complex vocal works ever composed, including the magnificent 40-part Motet "Spem in Alium," by Thomas Tallis. The expression "walls of sound" applies here, except that they are great cathedral walls. For those who don't know "Spem in Alium," it is one of the most beautiful and ethereal pieces in the history of music. Very highly recommended."
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Cancionero De Montecassino
2.  Cancionero De Montecassino by Cancionero de Montecassino
The list author says:
  "I am a huge fan of Jordi Savall and his various groups, and this is one of my favorite recordings by him. The music in this 2 CD set derives from a rare 15th century document that includes works by Dufay and Ockeghem. (Savall drew upon this collection for his film score to the movie, Jeanne La Pucelle.) Highly recommended--a treasure."
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Cant De La Sibil.La 3
3.  Cant De La Sibil.La 3 by Montserrat Figueras
The list author says:
  "Another one of my favorite Savall/ Montserrat Figueras recordings. This SACD includes some of the most unusual, and other worldly music that I have ever heard. It is one of three volumes of "Songs of the Sibyl"--music that serves as prophetic warnings about the end of time."
$25.68   Used & New from: $15.89

The Golden Age Volume 1:Europe
4.  The Golden Age Volume 1:Europe by Magnificat
The list author says:
  "A superb collection of music by Allegri, Gesauldo, Desprez, Lassus, Guerrero, etc., performed by the excellent choir Magnificat under the direction of Philip Cave. Don't bother looking for Volume 2, as Linn inexplicably pulled the plug on this project."
$20.57   Used & New from: $16.58

Essential Tallis Scholars
5.  Essential Tallis Scholars by Tallis Scholars & Peter Phillips
The list author says:
  "This is my favorite collection of Tallis Scholar highlights, of which there are several. Included is their famous recording of Allegri's Miserere, and Sheppard's Media Vita--which Tallis singer, Tessa Bonner, once described as music she wished to be played at her funeral (EDIT: I have just heard of the untimely death of this wonderful artist, and am deeply saddened by the news--what a great loss.)"
$18.56   Used & New from: $8.00
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

Decca - Eloquence - 'The Best of the Renaissance'
6.  Decca - Eloquence - 'The Best of the Renaissance' by Best of the Renaissance
The list author says:
  "Another fine compilation of vocal and instrumental Renaissance works. For me, the great highlight of this disc is a performance by Bruno Turner and Pro Cantione Antiqua of Dufay's hauntingly beautiful motet "Flos Florum," which is here given the finest performance that I have ever heard."
$11.59   Used & New from: $10.99

Thomas Tallis: Spem in Alium
7.  Thomas Tallis: Spem in Alium by Magnificat
The list author says:
  "This release was available in both CD and SACD formats (this is the Hybrid SACD release--which sounds better even on a regular CD player), and contains one of the finest performances of Tallis's 40-part Motet "Spem in Alium" in the current catalogue. Also included is a performance of the Tallis "Miserere" that is a revelation. Highly recommended."
$22.60
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

Sacred Music
8.  Sacred Music by Tallis
The list author says:
  "This was the first recording that I ever heard of "Spem in Alium," and it still remains one of my favorites. David Wulstan was a pioneer in this music, both as a performer and a scholar, and the Clerks of Oxenford produce an unusually ethereal sound that is perfect for this music."
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Thomas Tallis - Latin Church Music 1 (EMI)
9.  Thomas Tallis - Latin Church Music 1 (EMI) by Thomas Tallis
The list author says:
  "This is volume 1 (of 2) of Andrew Parrott's survey of Latin Church Music by Thomas Tallis, performed here by the Taverner Choir. Both volumes are also available together at a lower cost on Virgin Veritas. While I have some reservations about this set as a whole, Parrott's performance of Spem in Alium is one of the finest I have ever heard."
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Dunstable: Motets
10.  Dunstable: Motets by John Dunstable
The list author says:
  "One of my favorite Hilliard recordings, chiefly because it includes the most amazing performance that I have ever heard of Dunstable's mystical motet, "Veni Sancte Spiritus." The Orlando Consort is also excellent in this work, but I definitely prefer the Hilliards here. Dunstable's music was very influential on the European continent."
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Dreams in the Pleasure Garden
11.  Dreams in the Pleasure Garden by Guillaume de Machaut
The list author says:
  "I am virtually certain that this superb CD has been reissued at a discount price, but I don't seem to be able to locate it here. Nevertheless, it contains some very exotic and interesting music, and is one of the finest recordings that the Orlando Consort has made to date."
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Perotin
12.  Perotin by Perotin
The list author says:
  "Perotin was a 12th century French composer associated with the School of Notre Dame Cathedral. This is some of the most other worldly music you will ever hear, in great performances by the Hilliard Ensemble."
$16.25   Used & New from: $3.73
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

The Old Hall Manuscript - English Music c 1410-1415 /The Hilliard Ensemble * Hillier
13.  The Old Hall Manuscript - English Music c 1410-1415 /The Hilliard Ensemble * Hillier by Anonymous
The list author says:
  "More great performances by the Hilliard Ensemble of some very remarkable music. It is a pity these are now out of print and so expensive. (Edit: The original EMI Reflexe release of this cd has been reissued by Archiv Music at a more reasonable price.)"
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Power: Masses & Motets
14.  Power: Masses & Motets by Leonel Power
The list author says:
  "More of the same."
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Diabolic Chant
15.  Diabolic Chant by Medieval Ensemble of London
The list author says:
  "Another fantastic group, The Medieval Ensemble of London, whose wonderful recordings--fortunately--are finally coming back into print. Highly Recommended."
$9.99

Brumel: Missa 'Et ecce terrae motus'; Sequentia 'Dies irae' /Huelgas Ensemble * P van Nevel
16.  Brumel: Missa 'Et ecce terrae motus'; Sequentia 'Dies irae' /Huelgas Ensemble * P van Nevel by Antoine Brumel
The list author says:
  "Judging from the astonishing quality of Antonie Brumel's Missa 'Et ecce terrae motus," he must be one of the greatest composers that ever lived. There is also an fine recording by the Tallis Scholars, but I prefer the Hueglas Ensemble here. Highly recommended.  EDIT: The original 1991 Sony issue is listed at a more reasonable price.  It also comes in their  "Secret Labyrinth" bargain box set."
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Desprez: Motets
17.  Desprez: Motets by Orlando Consort
The list author says:
  "It's also a pity that this great disc of Josquin Desprez Motets by the Orlando Consort is now out of print, as it contains some of the most beautiful performances in my entire collection. The counter tenor singing is among the best I've ever heard.  My highest recommendation.  Edit: Amazon UK often has it at a lower cost & there's now a reissue on Brilliant (though the UK import has better sound)."
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Josquin: Motets & Chansons
18.  Josquin: Motets & Chansons by Josquin Desprez
The list author says:
  "Fortunately, there is also this exceptionally fine recording of Josquin Motets by the Hilliard Ensemble. Like the Orlando recording above, this disc also includes the profoundly moving motet, "La deploration de Johannes Ockeghem," written to commemorate the death of Josquin's teacher, Ockeghem. Very highly recommended."
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Josquin Desprez: Musica Symbolica
19.  Josquin Desprez: Musica Symbolica by De Labyrintho
The list author says:
  "Edit: this has recently become one of my all-time favorite Josquin recordings.  With the young Italian ensemble, De Labyrintho, directed by Walter Testolin, performing Josquin's Missa Gaudeamus, and various Motets.  If I could only take two Josquin recordings with me to my desert island, it would be this one, and the Orlando Consort singing the Motets.  Sublime."
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Desprez: Missa De Beata Virgine / Mouton: Motets
20.  Desprez: Missa De Beata Virgine / Mouton: Motets by Josquin Desprez
The list author says:
  "This wonderful disc includes some remarkable motets by the vastly underrated composer, Jean Mouton, as well as a beautiful mass by Josquin, performed by Paul Hillier and Theatre of Voices. (It is also available in a 2 cd set at a lower cost, along with some Lassus music.) Highly recommended."
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Lassus: Penitential Psalms / Hilliard Ensemble
21.  Lassus: Penitential Psalms / Hilliard Ensemble by O. Lassus
The list author says:
  "Lassus has been called the "Shakespeare" of music, and he is an extraordinary composer. His Penitential Psalms challenge me in a way that I find hard to put into words--they seem so perfect. Unlike other recordings, the Hilliards add instrumentation to the Psalms, played here by the Kees Boeke Consort. This would be very highly recommended, if it weren't for the ridiculously high price of $215."
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Penitential Psalms
22.  Penitential Psalms by O. Lassus
The list author says:
  "With the Hilliard recording priced so high, these recordings by the now defunct "Henry's Eight" make an excellent alternative, as they were a very gifted group of singers. But I do miss the instrumentation on the Hilliard recording."
$19.07   Used & New from: $11.96

Lassus: Motets and Chansons
23.  Lassus: Motets and Chansons by Orlande de Lassus
The list author says:
  "A superb collection of Lassus Motets performed by the Hilliard Ensemble, and for a change offered at a more affordable price--$16.99."
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Philippe Rogier: Missa Ego sum qui sum
24.  Philippe Rogier: Missa Ego sum qui sum by Magnificat
The list author says:
  "Some remarkably beautiful music from a great, but little known composer, Phillipe Rogier, performed here by Magnificat, led by Philip Cave. This is a very rare and special CD, and when it goes out of print, if it hasn't already, it will become exceedingly difficult to find, I expect."
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Sacred Music: Missa Cum Iocunditate / Motets
25.  Sacred Music: Missa Cum Iocunditate / Motets by P. De. La Rue
The list author says:
  "Another brilliant Hilliard recording that is, alas, out of print and very expensive--a pity."
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Requiem / Missa Mi-Mi
26.  Requiem / Missa Mi-Mi by Johannes Ockeghem
The list author says:
  "While the more recent recording by The Clerk's Group of Ockeghem's Requiem is excellent, I still prefer this older Hilliard Ensemble recording, which also includes the beautiful Missa Mi-Mi. However, if you want to explore Ockheghem's music further, Wickham's award winning survey is excellent. (Edit: this recording was newly reissued in a 2-CD discount set on May 18, 2010 for around $10.)"
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Song for Francesca
27.  Song for Francesca by Andreas de Florentia
The list author says:
  "The Gothic Voices is another extraordinary group, and this is one of my favorite recordings by them. If you like this, I would also recommend their cd--"Music for the Lion-hearted King.""
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Dowland - The Collected Works / The Consort of Musicke, Rooley
28.  Dowland - The Collected Works / The Consort of Musicke, Rooley by John Dowland
The list author says:
  "I have adored Anthony Rooley and The Consort of Musicke since I first bought their recordings on LP, and this brilliant set features some amazing singing from a young Emma Kirkby and others. Among my favorite Dowland works is "The Pilgrim's Solace." Highly recommended."
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Keyboard Music by William Byrd
29.  Keyboard Music by William Byrd by William Byrd
The list author says:
  "A single disc selection from Davitt Moroney's remarkable complete survey of William Byrd's keyboard works. If you think that there was no great keyboard music written before the time of Bach, have a listen to this."
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Du Caurroy: Requiem Des Rois De France
30.  Du Caurroy: Requiem Des Rois De France by Eustache Du Caurroy
The list author says:
  "Du Caurroy is a seriously underrated composer, and this performance of his beautiful Requiem, written for the French Henry IV, is superb. The only slight drawback is that about half way through the music stops in order for a eulogy to be spoken for the dead king in old French, which you might want to program out (I do). Otherwise, it's great music, and well performed by Doulce Memoire."
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Fant (23)
31.  Fant (23) by E. Du Caurroy
The list author says:
  "Du Caurroy's rarely recorded instrumental "Fantasies" are here given excellent performances by Jordi Savall and Hesperion XX. However, there is a Harnoncourt recording of one or two of these pieces dating back to the late 1960s that is even better, but hard to find. Nevertheless, these are some of the most profound instrumental works of the period, and strongly recommended."
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Du Caurroy: Les Meslanges
32.  Du Caurroy: Les Meslanges by Bourin
The list author says:
  "Another valuable addition to the pitifully scant discography of Eustache Du Caurroy, by Doulce Memoire. Let us hope that this wonderful group continues to give us more of Caurroy's music. Highly recommended.  (UPDATE: the above recording of the Requiem is now available in a two cd set from Naive, coupled with Les Meslanges.)"
$18.01   Used & New from: $5.49

Allegri: Miserere / Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli / Mundy: Vox Patris Caelestis
33.  Allegri: Miserere / Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli / Mundy: Vox Patris Caelestis by Gregorio Allegri
The list author says:
  "After many years, this is still one of my favorite recordings by the Tallis Scholars, and is a definite "desert island" disc in my collection. Their performance of Allegri's Miserere here is also included in the "Essential Tallis" set above, but the Mundy and Palestrina performances are not, and they are equally remarkable. Very highly recommended."
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Dufay Se La Face Ay Pale: The Early Music Of London David Munrow Edition
34.  Dufay Se La Face Ay Pale: The Early Music Of London David Munrow Edition by Guillaume Dufay
The list author says:
  "The early music movement in England began with David Munrow, and his Early Music Consort of London.  And even after many years, Munrow's recording of Dufay's mass "Se la Face ay Pale' remains my favorite version."
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Art of the Netherlands
35.  Art of the Netherlands by Josquin Desprez
The list author says:
  "Of Munrow's many compilation sets, this one remains a personal favorite. (Edit: Please note that this set was newly reissued on May 18th, 2010 at a considerable discount--for around $10--by Virgin Veritas.  It is listed under the same title--"The Art of the Netherlands.")"
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Guillaume Dufay: Complete Secular Music
36.  Guillaume Dufay: Complete Secular Music by Guillaume Dufay
The list author says:
  "This extensive set of Complete Secular Music by Guillaume Dufay may be too much of a good thing for some listeners, but it is a very valuable additon to Dufay discography, and essential for lovers of this great composer."
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Du Fay: Mass for St. Anthony of Padua
37.  Du Fay: Mass for St. Anthony of Padua by Guillaume Du Fay
The list author says:
  "An excellent recording of Dufay's St. Anthony Mass by Alexander Blachly and his group Pomerium."
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Mass Fragments
38.  Mass Fragments by G. Dufay
The list author says:
  "A fine recording by Kees Boeke and Cantica Symphonia of late Dufay music."
$17.58   Used & New from: $11.39

Chansons
39.  Chansons by G. De Machaut
The list author says:
  "Ah, I found the new discount release of "Dreams in the Pleasure Garden" spoken about above. However, it is now simply entitled: "Machaut; Chansons." At this price it is a real bargain--one of the better collections of Medieval songs in the catalogue."
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Introitus
40.  Introitus by Hillard Ensemble
The list author says:
  "Edit: A single copy of "Introitus" by the Hilliard Ensemble has become available, and so I am finally able to add it to my list. Very highly recommended (see my review)."
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M. R. Simpson (St. Davids, PA)
Qualifications: Avid listener
Last updated: 10/5/10
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