Machaut: Ballades / Ensemble Musica Nova

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MACHAUT 11 Ballades Lucien Kandel, dir; Ens Musica Nova AEON AECD 0982 (75:17 Text and Translation)

De Fortune. Dame se vous m’estes. Esperance. Phyton le mervilleus. Se quanque amours. De triste cuer/Quant vrais/Certes. Il m’est avis. Sans cuer m’en vois/Amis dolens/Dame par vous. Amours me fait desirer. Quant Theseus/Ne quier. Je ne cuit pas. Hoquetus David ANON Pour vous revoir. Sois tard tempre

We have never had a collection devoted only to Machaut’s ballades on a disc until now. While the motets have had more attention recently than any other form, including a set of discs by this same ensemble on another label ( Fanfare 28:1), there are fewer of them than the 42 ballades, the longest list of Machaut’s compositions in any form. (He wrote 235 ballades, the rest not set to music.) Only four of them remain to be recorded, and while that short list has not been further reduced here, the program does give us a few works that needed more satisfactory versions. Only Amours me fait desirer and Quant Theseus (along with the instrumental hocket, which is not a ballade) have been much recorded in the past, and both of them, along with Esperance , have been recorded very nicely on an Ensemble Gilles Binchois disc (not reviewed here). De Fortune, Se quanque amours , and Je ne cuit pas are all on a superb Orlando Consort disc (22:5). Dame se vous m’estes is on the recent Gothic Voices disc (30:4), while Il m’est avis is on a fine Ferrara Ensemble disc (also not reviewed here). The disc concludes with two anonymous virelais (one instrumental) that show Machaut’s influence on the next generation of composers.

So apart from these pieces, there are still three ballades that needed these new interpretations. The four singers and four players render this collection in varied ways. Set for two to four voices, some use a solo voice with instruments on the other parts, others are a cappella vocal renditions, and still others are vocal performance with instrumental doubling. All of the ballades are given with all three strophes. Phyton , sung by a cappella voices, is a notable gain, replacing David Munrow’s incomplete version with one voice and two crumhorns. The other two that are marked improvements over anything up to now are both triple-texted ballades, a different text in each voice. Both are given elegant a cappella performances.

The last decade or so has seen one Machaut disc after another receiving favorable reviews. This is partly due to the performances that preceded those that we hear in this new era, a range that too often dipped sadly below an acceptable level of interpretation. It is also due to the exceptional level that current interpreters have attained. At the rate we are going, it will be some years before we have the complete Machaut, but perhaps it will eventually be satisfactory as well as complete.

FANFARE: J. F. Weber

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: AECD0982

  • UPC: 3760058369821

  • Label: Aeon

  • Composer: Anonymous, Guillaume de Machaut

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Ensemble Musica Nova