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GRAMOPHONE (01/2023)
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Blue Heron

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Reviewer :
 David Fallows

Several difficulties arise in recording Machaut’s Remede de Fortune. The first is that it is basically a narrative, over 4000 lines long. Here the solution is to begin with a couple of minutes from the beginning of the poem, beautifully spoken in medieval French by Scott Metcalfe; after that, bits of the story are told between the songs, but in the booklet only (and in English).

The next difficulty is that of the seven musical inserts, which are the point of the recording, the first two are enormously long (and monophonic). For the lai, ‘Qui n’aroit autre deport’, they butcher it substantially to bring it down to about half its original length; and they divide the singing between three singers. For the complainte, which has 36 stanzas on the same melody (lasting 44 minutes in the French recording of 2009 on Eloquentia), they bring it down to just over eight minutes. But the remaining pieces are substantially shorter, which means that in order to fill out a CD they must include a number of other works by Machaut (and one by Jehan de Lescurel).

This is in fact a live recording from two concerts given in 2019; and it probably works better as a concert than on disc – not least because at one point they include the first Kyrie (only) of Machaut’s Messe de Nostre Dame and they end the concert with a second performance of the motet No 20 (both among the best performances on the album).

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