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23.4.14

Briefly Noted: Marie et Marion

available at Amazon
Marie et Marion, Anonymous 4

(released on April 8, 2014)
HMU 807524 | 56'02"
Although the voices of the once-sublime quartet Anonymous 4 may not be what they were, when the group focuses on the medieval polyphony that made their name, they can still hit it out of the park. David Lang perhaps not so much, but 15th-century carols and polyphony, yes. For their new disc, the group has returned to some of its greatest repertoire, the complex motets of the Montpellier Codex (Montpellier, Bibliothèque Inter-Universitaire, Section Médecine, H196), the same repertory featured on their top-notch Love's Illusion disc, from twenty years ago. The selection made here is focused on one interesting but admittedly minor aspect of this body of music, the overlapping in a few cases of music in adoration of the Virgin Mary and fin amours texts devoted to a beloved lady -- thus the title, Marie et Marion. The scholarship is impeccable, because of the work of Susan Hellauer, one of the founding members, with each motet indicated in the booklet by its Mo number, the identifier used by scholars. The texts, in both Latin and French, are beautifully edited and translated, with pronunciation decisions all made on the basis of research in that area. As noted of the group's recent live performance of music from this source, their style of performance helps the listener unravel the medieval motet’s tangle of voices, often with three different texts and sometimes in different languages. Many of the motets are sung with one texted voice’s part alone at first, with the others layered on gradually in repetition. As Hellauer notes in her booklet essay, this has the additional scholarly benefit of underscoring the relationship of some motet parts with trouvère love songs.

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