Perceval - The Quest for the Grail, Vol. 2 / Taylor, La Nef

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REVIEW:When we last left Perceval (heard on La Nef’s earlier Dorian recording, Perceval, The Quest for the Grail Vol. 1--type Q383 in Search Reviews) he...


When we last left Perceval (heard on La Nef’s earlier Dorian recording, Perceval, The Quest for the Grail Vol. 1--type Q383 in Search Reviews) he was departing from Belrepeire Castle, scene of his victorious battle and home of his beautiful, beloved lady Blancheflor, determined to return to his mother, who he had long ago left grieving and sorrowful. In this Volume 2, Perceval, sung with clear, unadorned, lyrical beauty by countertenor Daniel Taylor in perhaps his best recorded performance to date, falls into many more adventures, some quite mysterious and even surreal. His encounter with the Fisher King in the Castle of the Grail involves a bizarre processional that involves a spear dripping with blood, a candelabra, a silver platter, and, unbeknownst to Perceval, the Grail itself. The next morning, all he has seen has vanished. For years more he wanders, facing many challenges and meeting a strange and wonderful cast of characters--a maiden, an injured goose, the Hideous Damsel, and a Holy Hermit--all of whom help reveal secrets regarding his journey and of the Grail, “a thing of great sacredness that supports and fortifies life.”

If you’re not familiar with the amazing Canadian ensemble La Nef, you owe it to yourself to hear its performances, and the two discs that make up the story of Perceval and the Grail are a good place to start. What these musician/storyteller/actors have done is adapted the 12th-century texts of Chrétien de Troyes’ version of the grail story and set them to various existing and newly composed tunes, supported with original and highly effective instrumental accompaniments. In a strange way, La Nef has modernized the story and its presentation while preserving an aura of “ancientness” through use of old instruments--harp, viol, psaltery, early guitar, shawm, percussion, recorder--the ancient languages, and perfectly chosen, characterful voices. There’s an abundance of beautiful music here, and the tunes are always tastefully and imaginatively used--the British folksong “Ca’ the yowes” set to the words “Tout le jour, sa voie tint”; the clever interjection of the old English song “Brid one brere” (Bird on briar) into the scene where Perceval finds the injured goose; and the varied use of the Easter plainchant “Victimae paschali laudes” at Perceval’s Good Friday visit to the Hermit.

One of the disc’s highlights is the haunting solo and accompaniment to the Fisher King’s song of greeting, a tune adapted from a Gaelic melody. All of the voices and instrumental performances are outstanding (especially Taylor, baritone Rafik Samman, soprano Catherine Herrmann, contralto Claire Gignac, viol player Betsy MacMillan, and guitarist Sylvain Bergeron) and they’re captured in Dorian’s trademark top-notch sound. This disc and its companion volume provide two of the most delightful hours you can spend with a recording. If you like great stories, fantastic music, and a bit of medieval magic, you can’t go wrong with La Nef and Perceval.

--David Vernier,

Product Description:

  • Release Date: February 12, 1997

  • UPC: 053479029423

  • Catalog Number: DOR-90294

  • Label: Dorian

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Sylvain Bergeron

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: La Nef

  • Performer: Daniel Taylor