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Bruno Bonhoure tells us that ‘his stage presence and his personality make him one of the most captivating French tenors on stage today’. Khaï-Dong Luong – whose credit for ‘conception artistique’ is due to his responsibility for the staging of the live concert recorded here – ‘surprises and innovates by […] brushing aside convention’. These descriptions seem to support my suspicions that this disc says more about the performers than the repertoire. This is in principle no bad thing: in a sense, all contemporary performances of medieval repertoire will do so, and thoughtful and off-the- beaten-track performances of familiar repertoire are a joy. I do not wish by any means to represent the ‘authenticity police’. It’s just that the recasting of the round-dance ‘Polorum regina’as slow, ambient, crooning ‘mood-music’ seems a step too far in terms of disregard for the purpose and structure of the tune; and the self-conscious popstar-isms of ‘Cuncti simus concanentes’ here do rather inspire amusement than religious fervour.

The Jeune Chœur de Dordogne portrays the responding pilgrims. Their handling of the tricky intonational issues in the Llibre Vermell’s opening ‘O Virgo splendens’ is impressive. There is some excellent playing, too, from La Camera delle Lacrime.

The disc ends, incongruously, with ‘Els segadors’, a lament recalling the Catalans’ 1640 revolt which is now Catalonia’s national anthem. This is justified by the contextualisation of the Llibre Vermell’s songs as a continuing strong element of Catalan identity, and for my money, it’s the most successful track on the album.

Catherine Groom Read the full review on Agora Classica


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