Gardens of Delight

Roses, Lilies & Other Flowers in Medieval Song
First Hand Records FHR68
Ciconia, Hildegard of Bingen, Machaut, Zacara

The ensemble The Telling comprises three women singers, Clare Norburn, Ariane Prüssner and Leah Stuttard, who also plays harp and frame drum. In their group notes, descriptions of concerts in which the performers move among the audience to the light of candles helped to bring this programme to life. It is a varied programme of medieval music from throughout Europe, which includes many of the big names of medieval music such as Hildegard, Machaut and Ciconia but principally anon! There are some lovely moments as the medieval harp blends with the female voices in beautiful slow airs. Things are perhaps slightly less comfortable when the tempo picks up a bit, and animated pieces employing all three voices frequently lack the defined articulation and pin-point tuning necessary to show this tricky material to best advantage. On the other hand, the blended voices work beautifully in the more contemplative repertoire such as is their lovely account of the 14th-century English carol Ther is no ros. This CD recalls the work of the New York-based ensemble Anonymous 4, whose wonderfully blended women’s voices set a new standard for performances of this sort of repertoire. In my opinion, The Telling don’t quite achieve the degree of perfect intonation, blend and articulation of the Americans, but this CD provides a pleasing and effective introduction to this repertoire.

D. James Ross

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