Popes and Antipopes Metronome METCD1008

Déjà Review: this review was first published in April 2002 and the recording is still available.

Popes and Antipopes
Music for the Courts of Avignon and Rome
Orlando Consort
rec. 1994, BBC Radio broadcast. Released by arrangement with BBC Worldwide Ltd.
Metronome MET CD 1008 [71]

There were times listening to this deeply impressive recording when I wondered whether the Orlando Consort were not, after all, the greatest ensemble of its kind anywhere. It’s that kind of disc. Allied to a thorough and intellectual grounding comes a persuasive and sustained beauty of tone that coalesces to form a unity of idea and execution. That said, this is not easy repertoire because Ars Subtilior is of heightened intellectual complexity, both literary and musical. The music on this disc which comes from two 1994 BBC broadcasts and is released by arrangement reflects the Papal schisms and the Dual Papacies of Rome and Avignon between 1317 and 1447. It was the era of Petrarch and Jan Hus, religious ferment and intellectual fireworks. The sacred music recorded here is generally austere and complex, though lightened by knowing internalised puns (in the case of an anonymous setting of Gloria, Clemens written for Clement I, where the pun is on his name and clemency). In addition, very little multi-movement music has survived, so the programming is necessarily disparate with composers ranging from Dufay to several anonymous settings, the former being among the greatest moments on the disc. Both Balsamus et munda cera and Supremum est are extraordinarily sophisticated settings, with the latter dazzling both in imaginative conception and its execution by the Consort. The songs have an elegant and quick sensuality that is immediately attractive; Zacharie’s Gia per gran nobelta is especially invigorating. This interpolation of the two genres, the sacred and the profane, adds immeasurably to the texture of the disc, properly reflective of the musical impulses of the time. There is an excellent note from the scholar Margaret Bent that clarifies and illuminates the musico-political history of the period. And as I said before the Orlando Consorts singing is really beyond praise as is the whole production.

Jonathan Woolf

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Gloria, Clemens deus artifex tota clentia
Pictagore per dogmata/O terra sancta/Rosa vernans
Mayhuet de Joan (fl.1378-1386)
Inclite flos orti Gebenesis
Egidius de Francia (fl.mid 1300s)
Courtois et sages
Philipoctus de Caserta (c1360–c1435)
Par les bons Gedeon
Johannes Ciconia (c1370-1412)
O Petre, Christi discipule
Bartolomeus de Bononia (fl.c1405-1427)
Arte psalentes
Gilet Velut (fl.1410-30)
Benedicta viscera/Ave mater gratie/Ora pro nobis
Johannes Ciconia
Gloria Suscipe Trinitas
Johannes Tapissier (c1370-c1409)
Eya dulcis/Vale placens
Antonio de Civitate (fl.1392–1421)
Clarus ortu/Gloriosa mater
Nicolaus Zachirie (c1400-1466)
Gia per gran nobelta
Johannes Brassart (c1400-1455)
Te dignitas presularis
Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474)
Balsamus et munda cera
Supremum est
Ecclesie militantis