Marie et Marion [TrackList follows] – Anonymous 4 – Harmonia mundi multichannel SACD HMU 507824, 56:02 (4/8/14) ****:

This is the second album where Anonymous 4 uses the famed Montpellier Codex, the vastest collection of French polyphony in existence, for their source material, the first outing being Love’s Illusion, a collection of medieval motets. For this assemblage they have decided to dwell on the twin themes of love and desire in motets and songs, as contrasted by the devotion to the Virgin Mary alongside the more earthy gratifications to be found in the love of the more common name of “Marion”, as in “Robin and Marion”—we all know who that refers to.

Aside from programmatically dividing the topics up, “Marie”, “The Song”, “Marion”, “The Sorrow”, they finally contrast the two in “Marie-Marion” where we are sometimes deceived into thinking that the passionate and even overly-affective words are directed to a lover, when in fact the lover turns out to be the Virgin herself. Often, when simply listening to this music sans text in hand, one is surprised to find that what was originally thought to be of one type turns out to be the other, which is common to this thirteenth-century period, and show how in the popular mind the love and affection offered by any human being rarely considers qualities of emotion as fitting into “sacred” and “secular” categories—the same type of melodic expression is used for both “realms” in this wonderfully intimate music.

Anonymous 4 has changed only one member in their long history, and they are one of the bedrocks of Harmonia mundi’s success. This Super Audio production is as gorgeous as all their others, with a fine booklet and all-around first class effort, another jewel in their considerably large crown.

1 Mater dei plena – Mater virgo pia – EIUS (Mo 66)
2 He mere diu – La virge marie – APTATUR (Mo 146)
3 A la clarte qui tout – ET ILLUMINARE (Mo 189)
4 Marie assumptio afficiat – Hujus chori suscipe – [TENOR] (Mo 322)
5 Chanson: De la gloriouse fenix
6 Ave lux luminum – Salve virgo rubens – NEUMA (Mo 56)
7 Plus joliement c’onques – Quant li douz tans – PORTARE (Mo 257)
8 Reverdie: Volez vous que je vous chant
9 J’ai les biens – Que ferai biau sire – IN SECULUM (Mo 138)
10 Que ferai biaus sire – Ne puet faillir – DESCENDENTIBUS (Mo 77)
11 Pensis chief enclin – [FLOS FILIUS EIUS] (Mo 239)
12 L’autre jour par un matinet – Hier matinet trouvai – ITE MISSA EST (Mo 261)
13 Quant florist la violete – El mois de mai – ET GAUDEBIT (Mo 135)
14 Sans orgueil et sans envie – [MAIOR] IOHAN[NE] (Mo 225)
15 Trois serors – Trois serors – Trois serors – [PERLUSTRAVIT] (Mo 27)
Thibaut de Champagne:
16 Chanson: Amors me fait commencier
17 En mai quant rosier – L’autre jour par un matin – HE RESVELLE TOI ROBIN (Mo 269)
18 Pucelete bele et avenant – Je languis des maus – DOMINO (Mo 143)
19 Diex qui porroit – En grant dolour – APTATUR (Mo 278)
20 Pour chou que j’aim – Li joli tans – KYRIELEISON (Mo 299)
21 Chanson: J’ai un cuer trop lait
22 Par une matinee/ Mellis stilla/ DOMINGO (Mo 40)
23 Or voi je bien/ Examium decus/ VIRGO (Mo 273)
24 Plus bele que flor/ Quant revient et fuelle/ L’autrier joer/ FLOS [FILIUS EIUS] (Mo 21)

—Steven Ritter