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  40:3 (01-22 /2017)
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Bayard Musique 308 489.2 Bayard Musique 308 447.2 



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Reviewer: J. F. Weber

Recorded a few months apart, these two programs of Medieval music are similar. Santa Maria is devoted to chants and songs in honor of the Blessed Virgin originating in Spain in the 13th century, seven cantigas attributed to Alfonso el Sabio making up the largest group. The most familiar is the much-recorded Nembre-sse-te, Madre de Deus. Three pieces come from the Codex Las Huelgas, compiled for the Cistercian nuns at that abbey; the motet Alma redemptoris mater / Ave regina celorum is not recorded to my knowledge, but the offertory Recordare virgo was included on a Denis Stevens LP. The two-voiced Serena virginum, a conductus-motet from the Madrid manuscript of Notre-Dame polyphony, is especially lovely at the conclusion of the program; Anonymous 4 once recorded it from the Wolfenbüttel source. Three of the familiar final Marian antiphons are the only chants. All but six of the 17 tracks are lightly accompanied, and only one is an instrumental rendition, the prosa Salve regina gloriae from Las Huelgas, previously recorded by this ensemble among others.

The theme of the other disc is the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, including music from the Middle Ages to our time, though the selections dated to the 19th and 20th centuries are largely based on traditional music, such as a song arranged by Joseph Cantaloube. Half of the selections are in the vernacular. The Codex Calixtinus and the Llibre Vermell each account for four pieces, including Dum pater familias from the former and Mariam Matrem Virginem from the latter. Accompaniments are more elaborate than on the first disc, and again there is just one instrumental track.

Brigitte Lesne has a lengthy discography of Medieval music, and these discs share their qualities of lovely singing, sensitive interpretation, and lively performances. Her programs are invariably constructed, as these are, around a specific theme, but variety always makes each program interesting. The most familiar name in the ensemble is Catherine Sergent, a longtime member of the group. Specialists in the Middle Ages will enjoy both of these lovely discs.

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