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Machaut: La Messe De Nostre Dame; Songs from Le Voir Dit

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Messe de Nostre Dame - Livre du Voir Dit / Oxford Camerata - Jeremy Summerly, direction
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Product Details

  • Performer: Oxford Camerata
  • Conductor: Jeremy Summerly
  • Composer: Guillaume de Machaut
  • Audio CD (December 17, 1996)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B0000014AN
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,106 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
"La Messe de Notre Dame" by Guillaume de Machaut is one of the earliest settings of the Mass by a single composer.The Oxford Camerata,in the Reims cathedral,so the would match the same accoustics as those that must of been heard when the work was first premiered in 1364. the rest of the songs are from "Le voir dit" The liner notes of this recording tell how it was possible to match with great fidelity the accoustics of the Reims Cathedral.This is one of my favorites recordings in my private collection. Questions and comments are greatly appreciated.
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The Mass by Machaut is the earliest complete setting of the Mass text that we have. It was composed for performance in a specific church (in which this recording is made) for a specific occasion and has performance connections to the composer and his family. The performance is excellent and the recording quite clear, especially the mass, using the acoustic of a large stone church.
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Format: Audio CD
This is probably as early as most people go with "early music", being composed around 1365 and the first setting of the Ordinary of the Mass attributable to one composer - who was also a poet much admired by Chaucer.

The performance style here is my antidote to the controversial practice adopted by Marcel Pérès and the Ensemble Organum (see my review) which employs an incongruous singing style derived from Corsican tradition with much groaning, sliding and ornamentation. Some enjoy that iconoclastic approach but I prefer to hear the music as it is done here by a small, professional choir who are never too monochrome or precious and happy to inject the occasional little turn in the line as indicated by the "plicas" which appear in 14C music and for the last time in Machaut's manuscript. There are four parts rather than the conventional three, a contratenor moving around the same tessitura as the tenor. The singing, led by Robin Blaze's mellifluous countertenor, is usually smooth and harmonious but sometimes agreeably tangy and just a little harsh when they want to avoid sounding too comfortable and emphasise those surprising harmonic twists and excursions into the minor. The acoustic of Reims Cathedral is perfect: clear yet spacious with enough reverberance to suggest vertical space.

The second half of the recital consists of songs from "Le Voir Dit" and has the more intimate acoustic deriving from a studio recording, as befits these passionate outpourings from the courtly tradition charting the course of a December-May romance between the poet-composer and a young admirer.

Thus this disc provides a window on an age devoid of self-conscious preciousness in that erotic love and devotion to God could be expressed with equal fervour and sincerity.

Full texts and translations are provided.
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Format: Audio CD
Last year I did my Masters' dissertation on Mediaeval Scholasticism and discovered this CD at about the same time. I played it softly on my CD player as I walked the 'via dolorosa'. The CD helped me do very well because I feel it has a unique Mediaeval/Renaissance crossover feel that enabled me to internalise what these people were thinking. The plain lines of Gregorian Chant have been replaced with a three harmony glory which darts about the aisles and chapels of Reims Cathedral, slowing and speeding, lowering and soaring and totally gripping with its harmonic complexities. If there is a summation of the glories of the late 14th century it would be Aquinas' Realism, synthesised by Scotus and finally brought through to the nominalism of William of Ockham, the writings of Dante, Petrarch, Boccacio and Chaucer and this wonderful music. This is not simple rustic music of the home spun English at Crecy. This is the musical depiction of French civilization at its zenith, with its famous manuscripts like the Bible of Jean de Papelou it the Hours of Jeanne D'Evreux. The Romanesque style with its lapis lazuli blues and its idealising of courtly love in scenes that show this earth and the next are the nearest we have to visualisation of this absolute music. I see Decorated Gothic Stain Glass Windows and the most intricate Flying Buttresses which are a silent witness to this music which tantalisingly stands in the changing of worlds. The Black Death was only twelve years away and the old order would be challenged in ten more by uprisings in France and the Peasants' Revolt in England in 1381. The ancien regime would hold on to power but the rediscovery of the ideas of Greece and Rome would change the West's ideas about itself for ever.Read more ›
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