March 21, 2009

PURE POLISHED POLYPHONY:

Music Review | Anonymous 4: Together Again, Sweet Voices Join in Medieval-Style Praise of Mary (ALLAN KOZINN, 3/21/09, NY Times)

The program was a rebirth of sorts. Mostly, it was drawn from Anonymous 4’s 1992 debut recording, “An English Ladymass.” As on that recording, the singers assembled a Mass in honor of the Virgin, using plainchant and polyphonic songs and motets from disparate 13th- and 14th-century anonymous British sources. (This was how it was done at the time; it wasn’t until Machaut, in 14th-century France, that composers began writing complete Masses and signing their names to them.)

From the opening “Gaude, Virgo, Salutata” chant sequence to the final “Ave Maris Stella” hymn, the performance had all the polish, dynamic suppleness and warmth of tone that have always been Anonymous 4’s hallmarks.

The purity of its blend was intact as well. The ensemble’s lively account of “Edi Beo Thu Hevene Quene” — a sweetly melodic devotional song in medieval English, the only vernacular piece to find its way into this Latin Mass — was especially pleasing, as was the graceful melismatic singing in “Salve Sancta Parens.”

The quartet closed the program with an appealing preview of “The Cherry Tree,” including another medieval English song, “Hail Mary Ful of Grace,” and an 18th-century American song, William Billings’s “Bethlehem.”


MORE:
-CONCERT: Anonymous 4 Thanksgiving (NPR)


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Posted by Orrin Judd at March 21, 2009 8:47 AM
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