Nicolas Bucher, Ensemble Gilles Binchois, [Marion Tassou dessus, Vincent Lièvre-Picard taille]
159:13 (2 CDs in a card triptych)
Edition Hortus 184
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You have to work quite hard to divine what music these discs offer so here’s a summary. Disc 1 is Nicolas de Grigny’s organ mass from his sole Livre d’orgue, with appropriate plainchant insertions (three cheers for this!). On Disc 2 there are his alternatim hymns, again complete with the necessary chant, and settings of those same texts by Lebègue. The booklet (French and English) contains neither the texts/translations nor any real commentary on the music (not a word on the Lebègue) and the English translation is often more a string of words than meaningful sentences. Also missing are full details of the organ, and I couldn’t find them on the website to which reference is made either, though it’s sonically quite splendid – four manuals and all the colours. However, like all the modern players I have heard, Nicolas Bucher eschews the tremblant fort when it comes to the grands jeux though I can’t believe that there isn’t one.
Bucher does, however, play with great love of and understanding of the style (he is the general director of CBMV) – noble is the word that springs most readily to mind to characterise his approach. This would also be an appropriate epithet for the singing of the well-researched chant – though sometimes it does verge on the ponderous, as if a concern for perfect ensemble were over-riding a true feel for the lines.
I’m afraid that the performances of the Lebègue motets contributed little to my enjoyment of the programme.
So, poor supporting materials, some thrilling organ sounds and music good enough to have attracted the interest of JSB, no less. But that’s another story.