La Morra, Corina Marti & Michael Gondko
The rediscovery of an entirely obscure 15th-century composer of the greatest merit is a rare event, but this is undoubtedly what eastern European musicology has achieved in the unearthing of the music of the Pomeranian composer Petrus Wilhelm de Grudenz. A contemporary of Du Fay and associated now with some forty composition, on the evidence of the music recorded here, Grudenz’s is a talent to be reckoned with and one which in the fullness of time may prove to deserve the same elevated status as the likes of Du Fay, Binchois and Ockeghem. Belonging very much to the mainstream of 15th-century polyphony, Grudenz seems nonetheless to demonstrate certain individual compositional traits such as a penchant for catchy syncopations and occasionally unconventional harmonic progressions which may be an individual or a regional inflexion.
In bringing us a cross-section of Grudenz’s music, La Morra, working under the auspices of the Schola Cantrum Basiliensis, have set it in a context of other eastern European music of the period by other unknowns such as Nicolaus de Radom and Othmarus Opilionis de Jawor, while at the same time pointing out that the Eastern European convention at this time of encrypting the composer’s name or leaving it out altogether means that the anonymous works on the CD may also be by Grudenz, or may conceal further composers of considerable merit. The performances by the voices and instruments of La Morra are elegantly understated but beautifully poised, allowing this wonderfully crafted music to speak for itself. As Howard Weiner’s excellent programme note points out, perhaps the true value of this unexpected discovery is to challenge our perception of musical development as relying on ‘centres of excellence’ with diminishing peripheries, as opposed to a model encompassing a widely disseminated language with local inflexions and local practitioners with something valuable to add.
D. James Ross