With the year 2000 upon us, one theme on which performers of medieval music have focused is Jerusalem, a city that has been for centuries the focus of the millennial (as it were) aspirations of both Jews and Christians. Late in 1998, Gothic Voices
released an excellent recording of medieval works centered on Jerusalem as the goal of the Crusaders. On this disc, Brigitte Lesne and Discantus perform a program of sacred music about Jerusalem as spiritual objective--both the earthly city (as Zion, the focus of longing for the ancient Israelites in their exiles in Babylon and Persia) and the "New Jerusalem," the heavenly abode of peace described by St. John in the Book of Revelation. The works Lesne has gathered include a variety of medieval forms: majestic organum in the style Perotin
cultivated at Notre-Dame in Paris, a gently dancing triple-time motet from the 13th century, a 1,000-year-old hymn with two-part harmony improvised according to medieval principles, and (of course) plainchant.
With any recording of medieval music by an all-female vocal ensemble, comparisons with the phenomenally successful Anonymous 4 are almost unavoidable. While nobody can quite match Anonymous 4's silky, extraordinarily unanimous sound, Discantus is just as skillful, with a full, earthy sound and pointed rhythmic delivery (in contrast to the ethereal smoothness of their American colleagues). This recording may not sell as well as "An English Ladymass," but it's every bit as good. --Matthew Westphal