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GRAMOPHONE (05/2014)
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Harmonia Mundi

Code-barres / Barcode : 0093046752460 (ID407)

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Reviewer:  David Fallows


Twenty years ago, Anonymous 4 had the absurd courage to issue a disc entirely confined to motets in the 13th-century Montpellier Codex – a massive collection of almost 400 works that are almost never performed and contradict everything that is expected of great music: tiny pieces, mostly between one and two minutes in length, usually three texts running simultaneously, often in different languages and sometimes entirely irrelevant to one another, crammed into textures with the voices occupying more or less the same restricted range. But it was well received; and its lovers will be more than delighted to find they have done the same again.


This time, though, they have added four monophonic trouvère songs, to help the listener identify the four voices of these four very different singers, who make such a marvellous ensemble. And they have once again assembled the music in an interesting and intelligent programme, playing on the notion that in so much medieval song there is ambiguity as to whether the lady being praised is the Virgin Mary or the shepherdess Marion. They have also presented a lot of the pieces in ‘progressive’ form: first just the motetus and then the entire piece, to help the ear disentangle the details, which have sometimes been described as assembled with a positively Webernian precision.

Gorgeous music, gorgeously sung with absolute transparency. And, as we have come to expect, the booklet includes all the texts with good translations into English, modern French and German.


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