En Albion

Program: #23-14   Air Date: Apr 03, 2023

To listen to this show, you must first LOG IN. If you have already logged in, but you are still seeing this message, please SUBSCRIBE or UPGRADE your subscriber level today.

The Huelgas Ensemble recently tackled one of our favorite repertoires: polyphony from 14th century England, with music in manuscripts from Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Worcester, York and London.

NOTE: All of the music on this program comes from recording En Albion featuring the Huelgas Ensemble directed by Paul van Nevel. It is in the Deutsche Harmonia Mundi label and is CD 889854552121.

Music composed on the European continent during the 14th century provided input to a whole host of manuscripts. The Codex Chantilly is a famous example of this. Conversely, English music during this period was fairly unknown and hardly studied at all. The Huelgas Ensemble will help you discover this exceptional music that has reached us via the various manuscripts kept in libraries in Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, Worcester, York and London. Combining motets, masses, conductus, gymels and other secular songs, this repertoire originated in the midst of various local traditions: this explains why it was confined to the British Isles for such a very long time.

From BBC Classical Music: This collection bears witness to the great flowering and originality of English music in the 14th century, when local composers began to experiment with exotic chromaticisms and sonorous thirds and sixths, intervals their continental contemporaries regarded as dissonances. The 13 anonymous works here range from plangent laments to joyous Marian works, Mass movements to bi-lingual motets, French chansons, English canons and Latin carols.

While much of the music has a spartan beauty (highlighted by these pristine, straight-toned performances) there are, too, some strikingly complex and florid works – notably, the French ballade En Albion de fluns environen, with its knotty rhythms and time changes, and the melismatic Marian motet Virgo salvavit hominem, sung here with nimble grace.

Other highlights include Absalon, fili mi – David’s lament on the death of his son Absalom – whose stark, spare lines are delivered with haunting clarity; Exulta Syon – En ai je bien trouvé – a beautiful multi-texted tapestry; and the Marian sequence Mater ora filium, to which the singers bring a sense of rapt mystery. Throughout, the readings are subtly nuanced to express the wide variety of texts. Sony’s recording – in a resonant monastic chapel – is clear and detailed.

Kate Bolton-Porciatti

Victime Paschali laudes
Absolon, fili mi – Doleo super te
Stella maris illustrans omnia
Virgo salvavit hominem
Sumer is icumen in
Exulta Syon – En ai je bien trouve
En Albion de fluns environen
Candens crescit lilium – Candens lilium columbina
Dou way Robin – Veni mater gracie
Nova! Nova! Ave fit ex Eva
Kyrie Cuthberte prece
Mater ora filium

CD Info

Deutsche Harmonia Mundi label CD 889854552121