ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Guillaume De Machaut - Messe de Nostre Dame


GUILLAUME DE MACHAUT - MESSE DE NOSTRE DAME - ANTOINE GUERBER (Conductor) - DIABOLUS IN MUSICA - 3760014191329 - Alpha 132

Guillaume De Machaut (1300-1377) was a canon of the cathedral in Reims and a major representative of the French ars nova. During his time the ascetic and austere character of medieval creative life vanished and was replaced by an individualistic genius. The music, like the great gothic cathedrals of the time, was now reaching upwards and was being written more and more vertically, with harmony, as opposed to horizontal plainchant and gregorian chant.

This great mass in particular is one of the prime examples of the first attempts at polyphony and harmonic writing. It is full of odd and unusual intervals and shifts, that probably seemed normal to Machaut because theoretical rules of harmony had not been written yet. Everything was new and open to trial and error. Because musicians did not have ready access to other music back then, they did not have examples from other composers to help them in the process. Composers were in the dark as to what note combinations would work and which ones would not. Nonetheless, most of the unusual harmonies in the Messe de Nostre Dame are fascinating, and really bring you back 700 years upon hearing them.

The ensemble Diabolus In Musica, comprised of only eight singers, is perfect for this kind of music. The timbre of their voices, the uniformity and blend of their voices, the almost instrumental quality of the texture of their voices, all of these qualities add to the mesmerizing effect of this evocative sacred work. The recording was made in the historical Abbaye de Fontevraud, an old stone structure, giving it the proper acoustical ambience and atmosphere.

Another excellent project by the Alpha label, a synonym for quality and authenticity.

Jean-Yves Duperron