- October 27, 2019
This excellent ensemble of three voices, two medieval fiddles and a lute certainly enhance BREMF’s international credentials. Their elegant phrasing, the shaping of each cadence, the purity of tone: all was flawless – and then the complexity of the rhythms, the speed of delivery, the intermingling of the parts: these were amazing, what the director, lutenist Michele Pasotti, lightly described as ‘crazy music’. It is certainly strange to modern ears and audiences need help to appreciate it.
Secular polyphony from the 14th century, with medieval French or Italian texts stretched in long melismatic phrases, is difficult to follow, and probably was for the original courtly audiences too. We had translations in the programme and also on a screen alongside contemporary illustrations. These helped, but the pictures were not always relevant and it was only possible to follow the text for a few phrases because it was too difficult to identify the words being sung. Perhaps projecting the original texts beside the translations or even the scores themselves would have helped, but I doubt it as they are notoriously difficult to follow. There was still plenty of drama and comedy in the voices, gestures and facial expressions but for the most part it was songs without words. The cumulative effect was of a mysterious sound world, super-sophisticated and complex, polished and beautiful.
St George’s Church,
26 October 2019