Music from the Old Hall Manuscript
Linn CKD 644
There is always room on my shelves for a new selection of music from the Old Hall Manuscript, particularly when the music is as well sung as it is here. Gothic Voices, always leaders in the field of mediaeval and early Renaissance polyphony, bring a wealth of joint experience to this CD, and relatively obscure names such as Cooke, Mayshuet, Damett, Forest and Lymburgia are once again allowed to rub shoulders with their more celebrated contemporaries, Power, Byttering, Dunstaple, Pycard, and even the ubiquitous Binchois and Dufay. How exciting to find a five-part Gloria by John Cooke which is similar in style to and the qualitative equal of the remarkable and more familiar five-part Gloria by Power, which concludes the first part of the programme. The true masterpiece of the programme must be another five-part Gloria by Pycard which concludes the programme, and which is extremely impressive in its ruggedly conservative style. This is not just a random and generous selection of music from Old Hall though – it is extremely carefully structured, using the extraordinary ‘singers’ manifesto’ represented by the opening piece, Arae post libamini by Mayshuet de Joan, as a template. The second half of the programme, headed ‘reverberances’ is recorded partly at a distance, a radical departure for a group that in earlier times usually insisted on a very close recording ambience. This is an enthralling CD, imaginatively programmed with an excellent note by Julian Podger and compellingly performed. It will undoubtedly win many new admirers to the remarkable Old Hall Manuscript and its hugely important contents.
D. James Ross