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GRAMOPHONE (01/1997)
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Harmonia Miundi

Code-barres / Barcode: 3149020735619



Reviewer: Mary Berry

CD 1: The Age of Cathedrals


This recording opens a window on to what was undoubtedly the most important centre of liturgical music in twelfth-century Europe: tile Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris. The programme includes a few items from the great Abbey of St Martial de Limoges and one at leas t (Congaudeant catholici) that was destined for the Cathedral of St James of Compostela (the Apostle "James", not " Jacob " the patriarch as suggested by the translation of this well-known piece!). As for the Magnus Liber Organi, only one work of Léonin himself appears in the list, emphasizing the fact that he was not a lone , just one towering figure among many other highly talented musicians whose work was to continue well into the next century.


Paul Hillier's Theatre of Voices tackle this magnificent repertoire with confidence and a feeling of freedom. I t was with a sense of relief that I listened to their unpretentious style o f singing which, in general , allows the music to speak for itself, without the intrusion of any particular interpretative quirk , preconceived notion of rhythmic performance , or twentieth century personality cult. The choice of mood and tempo - and indeed of rhythm - seemed everywhere appropriate , though I confess to having to mount my hobby horse, yet again, to comment on the chant sections: too fas t and smooth to sound remotely as they might have done in twelfth-century Paris . Some knowledge, some imagination and some courage were needed here. I also think the singers might have researched the vernacular pronunciation for the alternate verses of In hoc anni circulo.


The introductory note by Edward Roesner is just what is needed to whet the appetite. I think the CD is a good all-rounder, and merits a place not only in music libraries but in music-lovers' collections too.

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