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This is a golden age of recording when it comes to medieval music and here are some exemplars, beginning with Messes de Barcelone et d’Apt. Ensemble Gilles Binchois, directed by Dominique Vellard (who also plays gittern), use new transcriptions for a programme based on original research by Maria Carmen Gomez, celebrating the musical links between Avignon and Catalonia during the divided papacy. Their aim to bring together parts of the Apt MS into a ‘coherent and pleasing whole’ succeeds beyond measure. The five male voices shine as individuals and in ensemble, with a rich blend, smooth without blandness, and sustained lines, phrasing and graded dynamics. Detail of ornamentation and pronunciation are well-judged and some (to modern ears) extraordinary harmonies suitably relished. Joined on occasion by two vielles and gittern who also offer instrumental transcriptions of motets, this programme includes, besides the two Masses of the title, four hymns and motets, all captured by a grippingly present and immediate recording in the Basilica Sainte-Madeleine de Vézelay.

REBECCA TAVENER Read the full review on Agora Classica


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