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Europe is awash with fine medieval ensembles nowadays, bringing original colour and interpretational expertise to established and rare repertoires alike. Two releases show how divergent their approaches can be. In Percival’s Lament – Medieval Music and the Holy Grail the Spanish ensemble Capilla Antigua de Chinchilla offers a marvellous, well-researched programme featuring troubadours and mystics. Delivered with verve by six instrumentalists, three of whom also sing (rather inconsistently), even some patches of instrumental ill-tuning fail to mar the pleasure and interest of an imaginative and believable whole. By contrast, the German quartet palatino87 are technically at the top of their game with La Bella Mandorla, exploring the Codex Squarcialupi including a number of exquisite secular works by Landini, Jacopo da Bologna, Lorenzo da Firenze, Niccolo da Perugia et al. Their solo vocalist, Maria Jonas, excels and the instrumentalist-who-also-sings gives little cause for concern: as a team their virtuosity is exemplary – why, then, does this über-polished and polite performance not quite pique the ear as the Spanish group does?

REBECCA TAVENER Read the full review on Agora Classica


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