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The second anthology in the Orlando Consort’s Machaut marathon comprises 13 contrasted tracks with the voices heard in just about as many combinations as might be obtained from an ensemble of four, all characterised by supreme text-sensitivity and beauty of tone. One marvels at their trademark exquisite balance and their ability to reveal even the most complex of Machaut’s structures with enviable agreement and ensemble. Although every track is a gem and dipping in is a delight, an end-to-end listen, even to these virtuosi, approaches surfeit and one pines occasionally for some instrumental input.

Highlights include a delicate, subtle interpretation of the motet Quant en moy / Amour et biauté parfait / Amara valde, the playful chasing of three voices in the ballade Helas, tant ay doleur et peinne, and those tracks where, reduced to two, they bring every technical and emotional device to bear on plangent, sustained interpretations, full of energy and interest. Old favourites such as the quirky ballade, Phyton, le mervilleus serpent, take on new life, proving that the sweetest legato can bring out all the required rhythmic interest. One can almost taste the relish with which they land, smoothly, on Machaut’s most arresting harmonies. The recording has presence and bloom in a slightly edgy acoustic that serves the filigree textures of the busier works particularly well.

Katharine May Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing