In the Biblioteca Nazionale in Naples there is a fifteenth-century manuscript containing six masses all based on the cantus firmus of the popular tune L'homme Armé. The front pages of these masses are neatly razored out owing to some miniature harvesting in antiquity, depriving us not only of key parts from within the musical texts but also of any composer attribution that may have appeared on those pages. This has produced one of the most hotly debated issues in renaissance music; Judith Cohen – who has edited the masses for their first publication in 1981 – Richard Taruskin and most others have adduced in favor of Franco-Flemish composer Antoine Busnois.
England's Orlando Consort, a quartet of male singers augmented as needed by other performers, offers performances of Renaissance vocal music that lie midway between the traditional and the highly individualized modern. Sometimes they veer toward one of those two extremes, but often, as on the present disc, they find a happy medium. Their sound, especially in sacred music, owes much to the English cathedral tradition, but there's a well-honed edge to their one-voice-to-a-part interpretations that brings out the crowds who've recently been drawn to early music. This disc is intended as an introduction to a composer who doesn't always offer easy listening to the modern ear. Netherlander Antoine Busnois, active at the end of the fifteenth century and considered the greatest figure between Dufay and Josquin, wrote music that broke free from elaborate medieval numerology but came in advance of Josquin's perfect marriage of music and text.
It's always great to encounter the recording that can "crack" a composer open, making his or her music accessible to a general listening public. And it's all the better when such a recording comes from beyond the usual quarters, as, for example, with this American recording of Renaissance polyphony. Nicolas Gombert was a Flemish Renaissance composer, a successor (and possibly a student) of Josquin who entered the service of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. His music, especially in his masses, tends to present itself as a dense, unbroken flow of polyphony. Gombert is one of the composers music history students tend to slog through in hopes of getting to the good stuff. One noted Renaissance scholar used to refer to him, Adrian Willaert, and Giaches de Wert as "the Ert brothers." All that could change with this disc of Gombert motets and chansons. These works are less dense than his masses, but not by much, and they are considerably less limpid than Josquin's pieces in the same genres. But here it is the performances that clarify them. The Massachusetts ensemble Capella Alamire (the name is a pun on an aspect of an old solmization system) under director Peter Urquhart, recording in a church in Portsmouth, NH, slows the motets down slightly and addresses them with a group of eight singers – the black belt of choral singing.
This final LOiseau-Lyre set presents some of the most significant Medieval & Renaissance albums recorded by one of the most authoritative Early Music labels.
A unique collector's edition is a "climbing on the history of music" for 20 centuries from ancient times (Greece) to the present day. "History of Music", the 20-disc collection. Starting with the ancient music, music of the Middle Ages continued, Renaissance and Baroque music and ending the era of romanticism and modernity.
Originally issued in the Century series in 2005,this EARLYMUSIC set by the artists of harmonia mundi now returns to invite you to travel the centuries in music. In 10 CDs and more than 12 hours listening, this unique guide will allow you to (re)discover the music of the past and develop your musical knowledge. Each CD is accompanied by a detailed booklet dealing with the musical, historical and geographical context, closely linked with key elements from the visual arts of the appropriate period. From the ancient world to 1600: the pleasure of discovery is complete, for eyes and ears alike!