IN THE LAST DECADES of the fourteenth century, composers working in the French tradition were sometimes musicians of profligate imagination. In addition to polyrhythms, extravagant melodic sequences and sudden dissonances, they sometimes created a sense of forward momentum in their compositions by sheer crowding of the texture, a legacy reaching back to the leading composer of the French Ars nova, Guillaume de Machaut (d1377). The music of Machaut, represented here by the exotic four-part ballade, Il m’est avis, was still being enjoyed in Italy around 1430 according to the theorist Ugolino of Orvieto, and even the most flamboyant aspects of late fourteenth-century style, fostered by Machaut’s successors, did not perish entirely in the 1400s.
The Binchois Consort presents a disc which demonstrates the beauty and grandeur of the music performed daily in princely chapels of fifteenth-century England. It illustrates the sheer variety of types of singing, some of it virtuosic in its brilliance. Specifically it offers sacred ceremonial pieces written either for Henry V himself, as King, or to invoke the saintly patron of the House of Lancaster, John of Bridlington, as well as a selection of intricate motets.