Throughout history, the symbolic and allegorical allure of flowers has been irresistible to artists, poets and composers who have delighted in the overt beauty and secret codes that flowers convey. Available again by popular demand, the Orlando Consort's The Rose, the Lily and the Whortleberry explores the inventiveness of European composers from the 13th - 16th centuries who used floral imagery to illustrate both earthly and heavenly love (both pure and erotic). The disc's selections effortlessly switch between enchanting representations of horticulture and sentiments that would make any gardener blush. A handsomely illustrated, 116-page book features the complete song texts, as well as full-color garden illustrations and additional notes contributed by Sir Roy Strong, President of the Garden History Society of England, Susan Hitch, an expert in medieval literature and a BBC Radio 3 presenter. As a special bonus, Christopher Bradley-Hole, one of the world's top garden designers, contributes a Medieval garden plan with a contemporary twist.
This beautiful CD of music from the 13th to 16th centuries in France, England, Spain, Italy, and the Low Countries finds the all-male Orlando Consort centering their attention on texts having to do with the garden and flowers. They open with a beautiful chanson by Machaut and his unique technique of playing melodies and texts off one another simultaneously to make a stunning blend--an ideal floral arrangement, if you will. The Virgin Mary is often referred to in floral terms, so many of these works are religious in nature, and there's a terrific motet by Brumel from The Song of Songs. Tempi and textures vary, so that there's never a sense of tedium. The CD comes with a grandly illustrated booklet, filled with reproductions, in brilliant color, of Medieval and Renaissance art. The idea, the music making, the presentation are all ravishing; this is already one of the best CDs of 2006. --Robert Levine
The title refers to a piece Alexandre Tharaud plays often as an encore, and it's an apt (and catchy) introduction to this wide-ranging selection of Francois Couperin’s works originally written for the harpsichord. Couperin arranged such short pieces into Ordres, or suites and Tharaud has fashioned his own suite made up of those most amenable to the modern piano. As such, it’s a wonderful followup to his earlier disc of Rameau and an example of the adaptability of French Baroque keyboard music to the modern instrument that should please all but the most die-hard devotees of "authentic" instruments. If anything, the richer timbres, varied colors, and dynamic capabilities of Tharaud’s concert grand yield greater accessibility to Couperin’s delightful miniatures, none lasting much more than five minutes. These gems are played with fleet-fingered accuracy and imagination. The popular Musette de Taverni gains from overdubbing, and the addition of the tambour to Bruit de Guerre is a delightful touch. As an encore to Couperin’s 19 pieces, Tharaud closes with Duphly’s La Pothouin, a lovely work that induces thoughts of Romantic era keyboard poets. A wholly successful recital, yielding over an hour of pure enchantment. -- Dan Davis
The Flower of Chivalry
Tranquil medieval music featuring The Hilliard Ensemble
There is an emphasis on peace and calm in this selection of medieval music. It includes gentle songs by one of the greatest composers of the age, Guillaume Dufay, whose music charmed the ears of the Burgundian court in the fifteenth century. Plus English harp music by King Henry VIII, and songs by Martin Codax from thirteenth century Spain.
The Hilliard Ensemble: David James, Gordon Jones, John Potter, Rogers Covey-Crump Sirinu: Sara Stowe, Matthew Spring, Jon Banks
The music on this album deals with universal themes in a timeless and subtle way. The programme interweaves instrumental music from the court of Henry VIII, much of it composed by the King himself, with songs of love and hope by the great medieval musician, Guillaume Dufay.
Henry VIII was an able musician, and a composer as well. A manuscript survives of music from his court which contains a surprising number of compositions, both instrumental and vocal, by the monarch. The consorts are particularly beautiful. Like much music of the period, these works can be performed in a variety of ways, as solo instrumental numbers, or as works for more than one performer. Here, they are each played by a single performer, but a variety of instruments can be heard.
Guillaume Dufay was probably born in or around Cambrai, in what is now Northern France, but he soon drifted South to Italy, where he studied at the university in Bologna, and became a priest. By 1428 he was singing in the papal choir in Rome, although he kept contact with the North, and worked in Savoy and Cambrai, which was under the jurisdiction of the Burgundian court. The songs by Dufay on this album are unaccompanied, composed for three or four voices, performed by the incomparable Hilliard Ensemble. These songs appear in an important manuscript held in the Bodleian Library, MS Canon.Misc.213. This very beautiful book was written out by hand, possibly by a musician from Saint Mark's, Venice, in the first half of the fifteenth century. It was 'discovered' amongst the Bodleian's collections as late as 1895 by Sir John Stainer, who made the first modern edition. Since his initial study, it has become one of the most discussed of all pre-Renaissance music manuscripts.
Martin Codax was a Spanish troubadour, and thus part of a long tradition of travelling court entertainers who could sing and play musical instruments. Codax is one of the earliest named composers and his songs of the sea and of longing for love are to be found in a manuscript. His music is poetic and intense, similar to that of Dufay. It is performed here with instrumental accompaniment from the hurdy-gurdy, one of the most traditional and popular of early instruments. The original songs have music only for the voice, and the arrangement is conjectural. In fact, the sixth song has no music in the original source at all, but music has been composed by Dr Simon Heighes for this recording, in the style of the songs around it.
Four solo instruments can be heard on the album: two harps, a clavichord and an organ. The latter two are keyboard instruments: modern copies of fifteenth and sixteenth century originals. The first harp is a modern instrument (played by Victoria Davies) and the second a copy of a medieval harp (played by Jon Banks). It is smaller and has fewer strings than its modern counterpart.