Classical CD Reviews

“Machaut Songs from Le Voir Dit” – The Orlando Consort – Hyperion

Machaut sung with authority and incredible beauty.

Published on November 7, 2013

“Machaut Songs from Le Voir Dit” – The Orlando Consort – Hyperion

 “Machaut Songs from Le Voir Dit” = Plourez dames, ballade for 3 voices; Dame, se vous n’avez aperceu, rondeau for 3 voices; Nes que on porroit, ballade for 3 voices; Sanc cuer, dolens; Longuement me sui tenus (Lay de Bonne Esperance), lai for voice; Dix et sept, cinc, rondeau for 3 voices; Puis qu’en oubli, rondeau for 3 voices; Quant Theseus/Ne quier veoir, ballade for 4 voices; Se pour ce muir, ballade for 3 voices – The Orlando Consort – Hyperion CDA 67727, 64:27 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:

Guillame de Machaut (c. 1300-77) wrote what many consider his masterpiece, Le Voir Dit (A True Tale) in the late 1360s. Then as now, he was the master of his age, the man who almost defines music in the fourteenth century. Today we might consider him an ancient forebear of someone like George Gershwin or any of the other Broadway legends, but in truth he was much more influential than that, Supreme Commander of the Ars Nova tradition, where secular and sacred texts were getting merged with sacred and secular music, to the consternation of many laity and the Pope himself, though several others down the road embraced the genre. Machaut’s death defines the end-point of the era, and his fame as both poet and composer remain undiminished to this day.

Le Voir Dit tell the story of the composer and his lady, focusing on the separation of them both and his sadness at the event, with the consequent misrepresentations about him that are spread about. The work is full of mocking satire, making fun of the common medieval courtly literature by showing the composer as an old and impotent poet who becomes the lover of a young and beautiful maiden in love with him solely because of his reputation. The work is full of poems and letters that he claims were actually written and exchanged between the two, and that she requested that the thing be written in the first place! He was in fact some 40 years her senior, and scholars think they have deciphered her name enclosed in anagrams in the piece: the noblewoman Peronelle d’Armentieres. The work consists of nine elaborate songs, each including sub-songs that contain the actual lyrics the two created for one another. Machaut defined himself as the absolute master of the love song and its lyrics.

The Orlando Consort has amassed quite a discography in their 26-year history, specializing in music from about 1000-1500, and this is their first recording for Hyperion. Based on these results the project is off to a fine start, with resonant, warm sound capturing the four male singers beautifully, making for a disc of notable importance and high quality.

—Steven Ritter

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