The Service of Venus and Mars
Christopher Page's new record with Gothic Voices repeats a formula that has worked so well in the past: a theme that brings us closer to medieval society than several of the blander titles chosen by other groups; a selection of works that are chosen with the utmost care, that is to say, works that he happens to like (and the last thing one could accuse Page of would be lack of discrimination); immaculately turned performances by the members of Gothic Voices; and a sleeve-note that prompts the mind towards a more imaginative kind of listening.
His sub-title here is ''Music for the Knights of the Garter, 1340-1440''. In fact the disc omits the most famous work for that Order (Alanus's Sub Arturo plebs), includes a couple of works that cannot by any stretch of the mind be considered relevant (Lebertoul's Las, que me demanderoye and Loqueville's Je vous pri) and opens with a motet almost certainly composed before the foundation of the Order (Philippe de Vitry's Gratissima virginis). but nobody could possibly regret having such fine recordings of these wonderful works. And Page ends his note by defusing all such complaints with the words: ''This, then, is our collection of music for the Knights of the Garter. Honi soit qui mal y pense.''
And it must be said that the theme of England and France during the Hundred Years War is well illustrated with some superb pieces, not least the little-known Singularis laudis digna which actually names King Edward III in its text. The singing of Gothic Voices now shows an occasional refreshing hard edge, heard particularly in The Agincourt Carol and De ce que fol pense. And a further novelty is the harp playing of Andrew Lawrence-King, who shows himself exceptionally well attuned to the music of this era.
As we have come to expect, the sound is beautifully and clearly caught by the engineers.'