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Machaut 23 Motets


Christel Boiron, mezzo-soprano
Marc Busnel, basse
Lucien Kandel, ténor
Caroline Magalhães, mezzo-soprano
Thierry Peteau, ténor

Zig-Zag Territoires ZZT 021002 [first complete recording, Pigna, Corsica 2002; TT 94 mins)

Musica Nova was founded in 1990 by a group of specialist musicians from the early music department at the CNSM in Lyon,who share a common interest in exploring the rich medieval repertoire. Musica Nova aspires to be an ensemble where exchange and invention flourish - its artistic choices are the result of collective decisions, based on rigorous musicological research. Musica Nova aims to recreate the music as convincingly and in as lively a way as possible, and here they triumphantly succeed.

This first complete recording of Machaut's 23 motets was a major voyage of discovery for the group and is so for us. The music as realised here has great beauty and vivacity. It ranges from monody to contrapuntal settings often of a mind-boggling complexity, with three texts being sung simultaneously; avant-garde of the 14th century, uniting musical, poetic, scholarly and popular elements of the time. To enter this world, and spare me the descriptive task, listen to samples on Amazon France's website. There are instruments as well as voices and we have found the sequence engrossing.

Zig-Zag Terrirtoires is a remarkable company, and they spare no trouble or expense in producing packages which are a joy to handle, whilst listening to excellent musicians always well recorded. There are two booklets, with comprehensive background information and full texts in old French and English, many of them secular, giving a piquant feeling for life in those days (e.g. "why does my husband beat me; I only kissed his friend...".

Navigation is a little complicated, but you get used to it (and anyway, there is no detailed word-setting in the modern manner). The tracks are numbered on the back of the jewel case; ihe words booklet has the numbering of the motets themselves, French first, then (separately) English; Roman numerals below are just page numbers.

It is all boxed, and greatly enhanced by the colourful, imaginative illustrations of the company's resident artist, Anne Peultier. Recommended warmly.


© Peter Grahame Woolf