old hall ladymass 2l

An Old Hall Ladymass
Trio Mediæval
Catalina Vicens (organetto)
rec. 2022, Uranienborg Church, Norway
2L 2L-175-SABD SACD/BD-A [51]

As much at home in contemporary and ancient music, Trio Mediæval already has a substantial discography on the ECM Records label, and An Old Hall Ladymass is their second release, following Solacium, with the Norwegian label 2L. This particular release has already attracted a good deal of acclaim for the striking quality of its recording, and with the transparency and clarity of the small forces assembled this is very much a ‘less is more’ production.

Medieval church or court music was largely based around the human voice, with the music performed evolving out of tried and tested models and long-standing traditions of chant. As the notes for this release point out, these composers and musicians remain largely anonymous to us today, though there are names attached to around two thirds of the 150 or so pieces in the Old Hall Manuscript from which much of the music in this recording has been chosen. With what would have been male voices transposed for females and with the addition of a female organist this collection has justifiably acquired its Ladymass title. The ordering of its movements adds to this effect, though with plenty of variety in approach to certain pieces this recording doesn’t have an entirely ecclesiastical feel.

Beautifully sung as they are, the more conventionally performed pieces here, such as the Ave regina celorum, blend into each other somewhat. The highlights are to be found in those moments that make you put down your book and sit up, gazing into a middle distance of the imagination. There are truly magical effects in which the organ weaves an additional line amidst the voices, such as in the brief Regina celi chant, and its presence in the opening Kyrie is also something of a statement of intent. Notice how the organ breathes and swells as if it is also a human voice. There are no electric motors for the bellows here, with this at times unsettling rise and fall explored further in Catalina Vitens’ solo Interludium.

Improvisation, or giving the impression of improvising is another aspect of performance with which Trio Mediæval is more than familiar, and there are some lovely echoes and call-and-response effects in Marianne Eriksen’s Sol lucet, one of a few commissioned pieces for this recording. The others are David Lang’s appropriately introverted Alleluia and beautiful Amen at the end of the programme.  

The joy in this release is in the cumulative effect of its transcendent performances and, indeed, the hypnotic immersiveness of its recording. If you love a bit of medieval atmosphere and can appreciate it with a feminine touch, then this Old Hall Ladymass is a must-have.

Dominy Clements   

Availability: 2L

Stella celi  
Sol lucet 
Pia mater 
Ave regina celorum 
Regali ex progenie  
Regina celi (chant)  
Regina celi
Beata Dei genitrix
Ave regina
Nesciens mater
Agnus Dei
Beata progenies