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.
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.
…The performances are fine and the digipack is an elegant presentation. The composer, so highly regarded in his own time, deserves more for his anniversary, but this will suffice for now. More than sufficient, it is a delightful hour and a quarter of music.
»Josquin ist der noten meister, die habens müssen machen, wie er wolt; die anderen Sangmeister müssens machen, wie es die noten haben wöllen.« (Martin Luther)
This is an attractive programme of comparatively rare vocal repertoire. Airs de cour by Charpentier (including verses from Corneille’s Le Cid) and Lambert are interpersed with instrumental movements from Couperin’s Les Nations. Cyril Auvity is an experienced advocate of the haute-contre repertoire and draws on all that experience to engage fully with the texts of these miniature dramas. His tone in the higher register can verge on the harsh, though this is a rare event.