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American Record Guide: (03/2021) 
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Reviewer: Charles Brewer


This is the eighth release in the continuing project by the Orlando Consort to record Machaut’s complete lyrics with music along with a slowly published complete works edition. As in all the previous recordings, the Orlando Consort has adopted what John Barker aptly termed the “Page Principle”, which require all parts of a work to be sung, but if there were no words in the manuscripts, the singers would just vocalize on a neutral vowel. This can sometimes make it difficult to differentiate between the parts, but this new release has resolved some of the balance questions. It also means that in most of the songs either Matthew Venner (countertenor, singing the “triplum” on two chansons) or Mark Dobell (tenor, singing the “cantus” on four chansons) has the task There is an exception. On the Orlando Consort’s earlier recording of the rondeau, ‘Ma fin est mon commencement’ (May/June 1999), following the “Page Principle” only the middle voice is sung, based on how the piece was published in the scholarly editions available. But in the process of reediting the music, it was noted that in the manuscripts the upper voice part, which was composed to be sung forwards and backwards at the same time (“My end is my beginning”), actually only has the refrain text written upside down and backwards from the end (“fin”) to the beginning (“Ma”) under the music. Following the notation, the complete lyric is written separately after the music. So on this new release, which has more presence than the earlier recording, you hear the text simultaneously sung forwards and backwards, which actually helps to clarify both the music and Machaut’s musical and lyrical game. In addition to the single rondeau, there is a varied selection of virelais (3), ballades (5), motets (2), and a single 18-minute lai. ‘En demantant et lamentant’ (With troubled mind and lamentation) is an elaborate plaint for “The Lion of Nobility”, thought to be King John II of France. It was copied only in a late manuscript of Machaut’s works for Jean, Duke of Berry. Written as monophony, it was only realized in 1970 that it was actually also polyphonic. Each three verses of the lai, with different texts, can be sung simultaneously in counterpoint. This interpretation repeats each group of three verses three times with the text sung only by one part with the remaining two using the “Page Principle”. On a basic sound system, the more active vocalise parts tend to distract from the one sung part, but using earphones, the spatial separation is more evident and it becomes easier to distinguish the three interlocking parts. ‘Ne pensez pas’ (Ballade 10) appears also to be a first recording. There still are 16 lais waiting to be added to this series, 11 of which will be first recordings.


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