Guillaume De Machaut, Ensemble Organum, Marcel Pérès - Messe De Notre Dame - XIVth Siècle

Published Tuesday 22nd January 2019
Guillaume De Machaut, Ensemble Organum, Marcel Pérès - Messe De Notre Dame - XIVth Siècle
Guillaume De Machaut, Ensemble Organum, Marcel Pérès  - Messe De Notre Dame - XIVth Siècle

STYLE: Choral
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Harmonia Mundi HMO8901590

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

Marcel Pérès once again climbs aboard his musical time machine, Ensemble Organum, and heads off back to the past. On this journey he takes us to 14th century Paris to meet one of the great composers. We are not certain of the dates for Guillaume de Machaut but 1300-ish to 1377 is close enough. He built on foundations laid by Adam de la Halle and Jehan Lescurel to give us what is now called the Ars Nova. Machaut's 'Messe de Notre Dame' is the first complete mass cycle whose composer is known and points the way forward to the music of Renaissance France and Italy. Pérès is a scholar who specializes in uncovering lost works and reimagining more familiar ones by trying to deduce how they may have been performed when written. Machaut has left us some music although Pérès questions whether flats and sharps were written back then, which assumes the performers knew when to use them. Also not written were ornamentations and glosses, where the singers would be expected to elaborate and improvise - jazz musicians know what I mean. Pérès sketches out his ideas in an illuminating essay in the CD booklet which musicologists will read with interest even if they ultimately remain unconvinced. However, this release stands or falls by what we hear not what we read. Certainly it is an interesting piece of musical archaeology and those with an interest in early music will appreciate the effort that went in to the original release in 1996. No doubt scholars of the period will be pleased to know that it is once again available. The singing is stirring - much more muscular than some, shall we say, wishy-washy ambient chanting that used to be popular back in the days of the new age. Ensemble Organum is a male voice octet, with director Marcel Pérès being one of the singers. It certainly makes for an interesting listen but may well be too specialized for a general audience.

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