Guillaume De Machaut
For all music-lovers who enjoy compiling lists of the greatest composers of all time, the Orlando Consort are proud to champion the case for the name of Guillaume de Machaut to appear close to the summit. Today this 14th century French cleric is best-known for a single work, the extraordinary Messe de Nostre Dame. However, in his own era Machaut was feted throughout Europe for his wide-ranging skills. The Orlando Consort's new programme demonstrates the full lyrical beauty, the sensual imagery and the inspired harmonic brilliance that lies in the work of this truly great poet - a direct inspiration to Chaucer - and composer. (For biographical notes please see below.)
The first half of the programme features the songs contained within Machaut's immensely long narrative poem, Livre dou Voir Dit (Book of the True Tale). This supposedly autobiographical tale relates the ageing composer's recent love affair with a lady some forty years his junior. Short readings by Consort members set these beautiful and captivating songs in the context of war-torn France and highlight the blossoming and withering of the relationship.
The Orlando Consort are delighted to be able to offer alternative options for the second half of the programme. The first of these provides further perspectives on Machaut's mastery of different poetical and compositional forms: church motets, sophisticated canons and more dazzle with their technical and aural mastery.
Or 'compare and contrast' with a second half of glorious music by Guillaume Dufay. Born at the beginning of the 15th century, Dufay's music spanned the medieval and renaissance ages. Not simply a master of old styles, his varied work dictated the course of composition for many future generations.
Le Voir Dit (CDA67727): A 'New York Times Critics' Favorite Classical Recording', 2013; Shortlisted for Gramophone Magazine Early Music Award, 2014
The Dart of Love (CDA68008): Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice
A Burning Heart (CDA68103)
Sovereign Beauty (CDA68134) Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice. Shortlisted for Gramophone Magazine Early Music Award, 2014.
Fortune's Child (CDA68195)
The Gentle Physician (CDA68206)
Messe de Nostre Dame (HMU807469): BBC Music Magazine Awards Choral Finalist
"The sheer skill of the Orlando Consort leaves one speechless: everything is immaculately tuned, balanced and phrased; absolutely nothing seems to impede the flow of the music".
Machaut, Gramophone Magazine
"Who said the Middle Ages were the Dark Ages?"
BBC Music Magazine
The Orlando Consort has consistently championed Loyset Compere, a composer whose reputation has unfairly been eclipsed by his younger colleague, Josquin Des Pres. Indeed, but for an error that mistakenly took CompÃ¨re to be Josquin's junior, he would be far better known than he is today. For it is he who influenced the great Josquin and not the other way around, as music history once had it. The Orlando Consort has made two recordings exclusively dedicated to his music, the first for Metronome Records, shortlisted by the Gramophone for the Best Early Music that year, and more recently for Hyperion. 2018 marks the 500th of his death and marks an obvious time to revisit and celebrate his rich and varied output, which ranges from intense sacred motets and masses to lyrical and bawdy chansons. His compositions display a flawless technical ability, yet the ear is irresistibly drawn to the sheer beauty of the music rather than its 'cleverness'.
In their concert program, the Orlando Consort present a selection of music that demonstrates the breadth of CompÃ¨re's achievement; the stately, grand setting of the Magnificat; motets that embrace simple gestures to achieve breath-taking beauty; and settings of secular poems of love that range from exquisite and lofty sentiments to texts that are liberally sprinkled with bawdy humor!
Magnificat Primi toni
Une plaisant fillette
Au travail suis
+ works by CompÃ¨re's contemporaries and followers Busnois, Ockeghem and Josquin Desprez.
Praise for 'Loyset CompÃ¨re: Magnificat, Motets and Chansons' (Hyperion CDA68069)
"We owe a debt of gratitude to the Orlando Consort for bringing us this pleasing, interesting and innovative music."
BBC Music Magazine
"It is becoming clear that CompÃ¨re is due for the kind of attention that his contemporaries have already achieved on records. Perhaps this is the first entry in a new era. Anyone who knows the superb Orlando Consort will not pass it up."
"These pieces (have a) near-miraculous formal balance and strength of melodic invention...the mellifluous high style of chanson (reminiscent of Busnois at his most lyrical) sees the Orlandos at their best."
Praise for Loyset CompÃ¨re (Metronome CD 1002)
"Discovery of the year goes to the Orlando consort's selection of music by Loyset CompÃ¨re. This stylish release marks a further step forward in the evolution of this elegant and intelligent ensemble."
"This CD is simply a marvellous addition to the catalogue."
"..one of the CDs that has given me most pleasure this year was partly my own initiative, the Orlando Consort in music by that magical composer Loyset Compere. It contains music that I have long wanted to hear in a performance that thoroughly suits my taste." David Fallows,
"The Orlando singers deliver lovely, suave, sensitive performances...This is clearly a 'must' for collectors of early music.'
-American Record Guide
Tarik O'Regan 'Scattered Rhymes'
Machaut 'Messe de Nostre Dame'
The 'Messe de Nostre Dame' by Guillaume de Machaut stands as one of the greatest achievements in western classical music. Composed in the middle years of the 14th century, it still has the power to shock and excite with a grand display of rhythmic energy and extraordinary harmonies. Recreating the practice of 14th century French cathedral services, the performances will alternate the complex and breathtakingly virtuosic polyphony of the Mass with evocative plainchant. The concerts are presented in partnership with local choirs and include Scattered Rhymes for Choir and Consort, a dramatic companion piece for Machaut's Mass by the exciting young British composer, Tarik O'Regan. If your choir would like to find out more about singing in partnership with the Orlando Consort, please contact us. We are happy to send out music and a CD on request.
"The music that you sang was the most amazing thing that I have ever heard". Member of the HallÃ© Youth Choir, Manchester. "We couldn't have wished for a better and more happy partnership and we will look back with much pleasure and satisfaction for a long time to come." Tim Morris, Director, The Oriel Singers.
Reviews for Scattered Rhymes:
"O'Regan's gift for lyric flight seems boundless. You might have to reach back to Vaughan Williams's Serenade to Music, or even Tallis, to find another British vocal work so exultant."
"A brilliantly conceived meeting of two eras." The Birmingham Post, Alabama, USA
"Tarik O'Regan wove the most magical and beguiling spell with the voices, delicately overlapping and layering the vocal lines of the consort quartet and choir, and building them up to produce the most brilliant and stunning sound." The Scotsman
Food, Wine and Song
Music and Food in Medieval and Early Renaissance Europe
In the unending battle to please the senses it is hard to imagine a more irresistible combination than good food and good music. Throughout history the two have gone hand in hand and from the period explored in this programme by the Orlando Consort (c1250-1550), documents have survived testifying in detail to the most tremendous feasts and lavish entertainments.
The chefs and musicians of the day proved themselves true masters of their crafts. In music, composers intertwined beguiling melodies with sophisticated harmonies and rhythms, and matched vigorous popular tunes with stirring accompaniments. Cookery was conceived both as a precise science and a complex art, and chefs availed themselves of a full range of herbs and spices to create dishes worthy of any grand occasion. The dramatic combination of the two disciplines provides not only a fascinating picture of contemporary eating habits, but also a striking image of social life in general.
'La Carte - La Musique'
France: Beginning with a delicate aperitif in honour of St. Francis and the vineyard; followed for main course by rumbustuous Parisian diners (c.1300), and for dessert the risquÃ© songs of Adam de la Halle.
England: The monks of Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire serve up some of the most sumptuous religious music of the 14th century, together with prodigious quantities of strong, monastery-brewed ale! Plus 15th-century advice on etiquette and good table manners.
Italy: Follow the whole cooking process, from the trip to the market, to advice on how to produce cheese and how to eat artichokes: "Eating an artichoke without salt is like going to the carnival with your own husband!" But don't be fooled. Even though the songs appear to be about food, in reality they are obsessed with sex!
Burgundy: Celebrate the lavish Feast of the Pheasant (1454) with the beautiful songs of Guillaume Dufay and Gilles Binchois. Relax to CompÃ¨re's beautiful motet in praise of Bacchus. And revel in the party thrown by the composers Robert Morton and Hayne van Ghizeghem - so loud, that it could be heard 40 miles away!
Spain and Portugal: Taste a selection of the finest Spanish wines as described by the none-too-sober composers of the Palace Songbook. Experience the sharp end of haggling for grain in the Portuguese market place.
Germany: Learn of a hundred and one things to do with eggs and wash them down with the very finest German beer and wine. As the poet optimistically says: "Drink and sing, for the landlord will surely let us drink on credit until tomorrow!"
The music alone makes for a delectable evening. But why not consider offering Medieval-style refreshments for your audience as well?....a sumptuous banquet, light snacks, or a simple glass of heart-warming 'hypocras' before, after, or even during the concert! The Orlando Consort will provide recipes based on Medieval cookery collections, commissioned from some of Britain's leading chefs, including Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jean-Christophe Novelli. And send your audience home with a selection of recipes so they can make their own feasts for years to come!