Much-awaited has been the new recording of the Machaut Messe de Nostre Dame from Björn Schmelzer and Graindelavoix, one of Glossa’s long-standing artistic “family” members. Following on from the trio of discs devoted to music in the spirit of the medieval master draughtsman Villard de Honnecourt, the Antwerp-based ensemble – currently in residence at the Fondation Royaumont in France – has now turned to the first-known composer of an integral mass cycle: Guillaume de Machaut, who was a canon at Reims Cathedral in the fourteenth century.
The work, described as a medieval monstre sacré, is performed by an all-male ensemble from Graindelavoix featuring both sharp high tenors and very low basses.
Graindelavoix’s continuing and vibrantly imaginative aesthetic is described, with his customary imagery, by Björn Schmelzer in the accompanying booklet essay, where he says that he is interested in “conjuring up the voices of the past”, and pointing to the contrast between the familiar and the strange as helping to describe the performance approach taken by Graindelavoix – one that emphasizes the individuality of the singers rather than a homogeneous ensemble sound.
Schmelzer’s choice of accompanying Propers for a Lady Mass underscores Machaut’s own devotion to the Virgin Mary, as do two of the composer’s spectacular motets, which are also associated with the city of Reims.
photos © Koen Bros, Marius Peterson