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GRAMOPHONE (October / 2017)
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Reviewer: Fabrice Fitch

Nowadays it is rare for recordings of early polyphony to span Machaut, Victoria and everything in between. The Vienna Vocal Consort are a mixed a cappella quintet whose solid basic timbre bespeaks a certain experience of singing together. Given the decision to be quite so wide-ranging, one anticipates that the challenge of such a programme is to adapt the performance style from work to work.

The juxtaposition of the two composers just named at the very start is puzzling to begin with (all the more so since the opening Ave Maria, though credited to Jacobus Gallus, is in fact the four-voice setting by Victoria), and Machaut’s Mass lacks the focus and rhythmic incisiveness that might have counteracted the ensemble’s melifluous tone. Thereafter, the absence of stylistic awareness comes more sharply into focus: the cadential pitches in Dufay go uninflected; the basic tempo chosen for La Rue’s Magnificat is far too slow and causes all sorts of technical problems (try track 11); in the earlier selections the number of misreadings (not only in a relatively little-known work like La Rue’s but in famous ones like Machaut’s or Josquin’s) is surprisingly high; and so on. Things improve slightly in the later pieces but the cautious tone remains the same. Besides, Machaut and (especially problematically) La Rue make up twothirds of the disc. One regrets that a more knowledgeable production team had not had more meaningful input.

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