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Fanfare Magazine: 39:3 (11-22/2016) 
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"Strongly recommended."

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Reviewer: Barry Brenesal


This is the second album the Orlando Consort has released that’s devoted to Loyset Compère (c. 1445–1518). The first, recorded in 1993 and issued on Metronome 1002, is no longer in print, but may be acquired from various online services either as a CD or download. The new one shares no content with its predecessor, perhaps indicating that the ensemble still considers that earlier album a viable purchase.

Members of the group have made it clear over the years that they regard Compère as underrated. So evidently does David Fallows in his liner notes for this new release, referring to various unspecified books that have labeled the composer a lesser contemporary of Josquin. This put me in mind immediately of Strohm’s popular The Rise of European Music 1380–1500, so I pulled out my copy and found literally under a subheading on Josquin, “This style can perhaps best be seen in the music of the younger and lesser composer, Loyset Compère.” After that, the damning praise that launches a discussion of his works in the Compère article of Grove (I) sounds almost laudatory: “Compère’s music shows him an able craftsman of the second rank in a generation of fine composers.”

All questions of taste to one side, what Strohm got wrong—and to be fair, many other sources, until recently—was the respective age of the two composers. Recent research has conclusively shown that documentation pointing to Josquin’s birth around 1440 was incorrect, referring to another individual of the same name. Our Josquin is now considered to have been born between 1450 and 1455. Fallows accepts the latter date, and states this means Compère’s embrace of imitation no longer makes him a contemporary exploring this musical procedure alongside Josquin, but a predecessor; indeed, “the true originator of the fully imitative style that was continued and perhaps perfected by Josquin.” I’m not quite convinced of this conclusion based on a chain of assumptions, but then, my admittedly narrow exposure to Compère’s music never led me to think him an inferior musician in any case, either for craft or inspiration. He’s not Josquin. What of that? He is still among the most exuberant and inventive composers of his time.

This album certainly makes as fine a case for Compère as that Metronome release—better, in the instance of the first disc’s Omnium bonorum plena, thought to be the composer’s earliest surviving work, more polished, predictable, and less interesting than much of his later music. There’s a splendid Magnificat on this new CD written during the mid-1470s when the composer worked for Milan’s viper of a duke, the musically inclined Galeazzo Maria Sforza, and a bi-textual motet of roughly the same period, Tant ay d’ennuy/O vos omnes, on this new CD. Much of the rest of the album is divided between three-part chansons notable for their Burgundian influence (including three whose texts are tentatively ascribed to Duke Jean II of Bourbon), and four-part chansons with syllabic settings, simplified movement between the voices, and clear-cut rhythms. The lovelorn pining of high chivalry is certainly present, but variety enters with a fancy-frocked folk piece, Ung franc achier, and a coarse little gem written at the court of Charles Valois, Une plaisant fillette ung matin se leva. The disc concludes with an O bone Jesu of conflicted attribution, being ascribed in various earlier sources to Peñalosa, Anchieta, Ribera, and Compère. It does not sound stylistically like anything else I’ve heard by our Frenchman, and makes for an odd conclusion to the album, despite the quiet charm of the work.

The Orlando Consort remains a byword here for its phrasing and stylistic perceptiveness. The group has changed little since its founding in 1988. Two of the members, tenor Angus Smith and baritone Donald Greig, have remained with the ensemble since that time. Countertenor Robert Harre Jones and tenor Charles Daniels have been replaced by Matthew Venner and Mark Dobell, respectively. The only difference I’ve noticed over the years has been in the change from Jones’s slightly richer sound (most notable for me on the first Compère release in Asperges me, Domine) and Venner, who possesses a narrower tone and slightly better enunciation.

No doubt music historians will continue to argue over the quality of Compère’s legacy for some time to come. In the meantime, we have this new release to judge for ourselves, in excellent sound and with complete texts and translations. Strongly recommended.




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