Straight from the heart

The Chansonnier Cordiforme
Ensemble Leones, Marc Lewon
70:20
Naxos 8.573325

With its neatly punning title this collection of songs from the exquisite heart-shaped Chansonnier Cordiforme  provides a fine cross-section of the 43 songs in the original plus a couple of decorated versions by Tinctoris from out with the book. Notwithstanding its elegant appearance, the Chansonnier  is a surprisingly sloppy piece of work, with frequent errors in the Italian texts of several songs, but it is a valuable source of some very fine polyphonic songs by Dufay, van Ghizeghem, Binchois and Ockeghem, although the bulk of the songs recorded here are anonymous. The performers sensibly take a pragmatic approach to the heated debate as to precisely how these pieces were performed and use a mixture of voices and instruments, with occasional a cappella renditions. I have some slight reservations about the top female alto voice of Els Janssens-Vanmunster which has a generally fine opaque quality which suits this music, but which has a weak area lower down where it can be a little shaky. With this one tiny reservation I have to say that I loved these accounts, which are both musically expressive and eloquent in an unhurried way. Although the Chansonnier  was probably employed in a acoustically dead domestic setting, the acoustic of the Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche, Binningen provides just the right resonance for full enjoyment of this lovely music.

D. James Ross