The Dufay Spectacle: Motets and Chansos
Back in the 1990s, the highlight of my reviewing year was almost always the arrival of a new CD from Christopher Page and Gothic Voices – not just for their supreme musicianship but also for the originality of the programming and presentation. Then Page withdrew from the group and for the past 20 years their existence has been far more peripheral to the early music scene. What a pleasure, then, to be able to welcome this Dufay recording as matching all the qualities that made Gothic Voices absolute leaders in the field. This time it looks very much as though Julian Podger is the presiding genius; and he has chosen the repertory very well, imagining a celebration at some point late in Dufay’s life and framing the entire proceedings with various versions and fragments of one of his most inspiring early songs, ‘Ce jour de l’an’.
Adding glory to the occasion are five of his motets, presented in what seem to me the most intelligent and musically transparent performances. Here the influence of Andrew Lawrence-King seems important, not just because he plays so many different instruments but because he has the neat idea of adding a 16 foot pitch only at crucial points within the motets: others have done this before but never with the same restraint, intelligence and musical power. One could question some of the choices of instruments here but never the quality of the musical results.
To mention all the glorious details here would break the banks of this review but I cannot avoid mentioning the marvellously experienced singing of Catherine King and her duetting with Steven Harrold: that is seriously classy. And the entire package is beautifully assembled by Linn.