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The indefatigable Anonymous 4 turn their attentions here to the trecento two- and three-voice songsof Francesco Landini, who achieved a place in the neo-humanistic musical and intellectual elite of 14th-century Florence despite being rendered blind in early childhood by smallpox. His ballate deal with courtly love with poignant grace. Landini’s notated pitches are of course construed here within female-voice ranges, but, with the exception of some addition of text to untexted lines explicated within the liner notes, the readings are otherwise very pure.

There will be no surprises here to anyone familiar with the group’s output: their sound remains as pellucid and as ethereal as ever, and while the homogenisation of texture isn’t for everyone (I must confess that I should prefer to hear these trecento polyphonic lines in sharper relief, grainier of texture), it’s undeniably beautiful. Recorded in a Lucasfilm studio in California, the sound is overlaid with a glossy patina; again, this lends itself more to a sleek background music function than to the aural comprehension of Landini’s structures or indeed of the texts. However, to criticise this score is perhaps to misunderstand the nature of Anonymous 4’s remit. While some listeners may find a listen through the whole disc rather like eating an entire box of chocolates in one sitting, there is no question that this is another superb example of Anonymous 4’s mellifluous, perfectly blended sound. Dante described the courtly lyric style that developed during his lifetime as the dolce stil nuovo – and Anonymous 4’s sound is certainly dolce.

Catherine Groom Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing