Welcome to the Orlando Consort’s recordings page. Below are thirty-second samples from each of our recordings which, as well as giving you the flavour of the repertoire, also trace a history of medieval music. They are thus in chronological order rather than the order in which the albums were recorded. Click on the tracks to play them and on the album covers to take you to the relevant record company websites where you can purchase them. A few of the recordings are no longer commercially available though you may be able to track them down on EBay and you can still download the tracks from iTunes and other such providers.

Alleluia V. Dies sanctificatus. A setting of the Alleluia text for Xmas day, this perfectly illustrates the austere and beautiful style of two-part improvised polyphony from the mid-eleventh century collected in the Winchester Troper
From Medieval Christmas
Harmonia Mundi USA 907418

 

Mater Dei (Mother of God, the sinner’s saviour) Aquitanian polyphony c.1150
Two-part florid organum from the Limoges region of south-west France that calls on the Virgin for protection. Probably composed for the Feast of the Circumcision (January 1st).
From Alleluia Nativitas
Music and Carols for a Medieval Christmas
Metronome 1001 

Benedicta Virgo Dei genitrix (Blessed and venerable art thou – O Virgin, Mother of God) Three-part antiphon for Easter that tells of the resurrection. A plainchant choir of boys and men supplements the three solo voices, following performance practice in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris in the early thirteenth century.
From Mystery of Notre Dame
Chant & Polyphony
DG Archiv 453 487
Sanctus (Holy Lord God of hosts)
Anonymous three-voice mass movement from England in discant style (c.1330) found in a manuscript associated with Worcester Cathedral.
From Worcester Fragments
English sacred music of the late Middle Ages
Amon Ra 59
Vos quid admiramini/Gratissimia Virginis Species (You virgins, why are you astonished/Most gracious figure of a virgin) Philippe de Vitry (1291-1361)
Four-voice isorhythmic motet from Paris that contains three concurrent texts, all in honour of the Virgin Mary. c.1330. The term ‘isorhythm’ refers to the repetition of a rhythmic and harmonic structure against more freely-composed upper voices.
From Philippe de Vitry and the Ars Nova
Amon Ra 49
De toutes flours (Of all the flowers…there were none except a single rose) Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
Secular chanson (c.1350) by Guillaume de Machaut that rails against misfortune. It is a ballade, one of the three formes fixes favoured by poets and composers of the time; three verses set against a musical form of AAB. The three outer parts sing the untexted lines to a single vowel.
From Dreams in the Pleasure Garden
Machaut - Chansons
DG Archiv 457 618
Sumite, karrisimi (Take most dear fathers…. and sing brother musicians) Antonio Zachara da Teramo (late fourteenth – early fifteenth century)
Ballade in ars subtilior style that commends the northern Italian composer to his musician colleagues c.1390. Note the almost perverse independence of the contratenor part which works against and between the foundation of the tenor and discant lines.
From The Saracen and the Dove
Music from the Courts of Padua and Pavia around 1400
DG Archiv 459 620
Gloria in canon (Glory be to God on high) John Dunstaple (c.1390-1453)
An exceptional four-voice canon over bass ostinato of the Mass movement (c.1430). The piece was discovered by Mrs Victoria Goncharova in Tallinn and reconstructed by musicologist Margaret Bent only weeks before we recorded it in 1995.
From John Dunstaple
Metronome 1009
Anna mater matris Christi (Anne, mother of Christ’s mother, look with pity upon us) John Plummer ( c.1410-c.1484)
Four-voice antiphon from England in praise of the Mother of the Virgin Mary c.1440
From The Call of the Phoenix
Rare 15th-century English Church music
Harmonia Mundi USA 907297
Ecclesiae militantis (Let Rome, seat of the church militant…bring forth a song) Guillaume Dufay (c.1400-1474) A grand five-voice ceremonial motet that sets five different texts; written to honour the papacy in Rome in 1433
From Popes & Antipopes
Music for the Courts of Avignon & Rome
Metronome 1008
Ja que li ne s’i attende (Now let him not rely on it) Antoine Busnois (c.1430-1492)
One of a series of chanson by Busnois that refer to Jacqueline de Hacqueville. It is even possible that the words for the chanson, addressed to a man by a woman, are written by Jacqueline herself (c.1450).
From Antoine Busnois – Missa O Crux lignum
Harmonia Mundi USA 907333
Kyrie from Missa De Plus en plus (Lord have mercy upon us) Johannes Ockeghem (c.1410-1497)
Movement from Ockeghem’s Mass based on Binchois’ secular chanson, De plus en plus c.1450/60.
From Johannes Ockeghem: Missa De plus en plus & Chansons
DG Archiv 453 419
Ave Maria (Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you) Loyset Compère (c.1445-1518)
Marian motet written probably in France c.1490. The text calls for help from various Saints, the names of which could be changed according to the patron saints of the area in which the motet was sung.
From Loyset Compère
Mass, Motets, Songs
Metronome 1002
La déploration de Johannes Ockeghem: Nymphes des bois (Nymphs of the Woods…singers of all nations, change your voices..to piercing cries and lamentations) Josquin Desprez (c.1455-1521)
Lament that invites contemporary musicians to mourn the death of Johannes Ockeghem (c.1497), described in the poem by Jean Molinet, as the “good father”. The tenor line is a setting of the Requiem plainchant from the Requiem Mass.
From Josquin: Motets
DG Archiv 463 473
Versa est in luctum (My harp is turned to mourning) Francisco de Peñalosa (c.1470-1528)
Motet often featured in the Requiem Mass in Spain, c.1500. Peñalosa was one of the most highly regarded Spanish musicians of his generation.
From The Toledo Summit
Early 16th-c. Spanish & Flemish songs & motets
Harmonia Mundi USA 907328
Ecce tu pulcher (Behold thou art fair, my beloved) Dominique Phinot (c.1510-1556)
The text is taken from that most overtly sexual of all the books of the Bible, the Song of Songs. As with much music of the Renaissance period, it is written in five parts which requires another singer, in this case Robert Macdonald who has sung with the group for many years now. As with Food, Wine and Song, it is sumptuously produced with a modern design for a medieval garden by Christopher Bradley-Hole, an essay by Sir Roy Strong and the usual thorough notes, texts and translations.
From The Rose, the Lily and the Whortleberry: Medieval Gardens
Harmonia Mundi USA 907398
Trinkt und singt Anonymous (Dance and sing) This song concludes a disk of music which references the twin pursuits of the touring musician, both modern and historic: food and drink. The album is a thematic and also an historic survey of medieval music presented in hardback with glorious colour illustrations and several recipes inspired by medieval thought by such modern luminaries as Clarissa Dickson Wright, Roz Denny, Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray, Sara Paston-Williams, Jean-Christophe Novelli, and Félix Velarde. It makes the perfect gift.
From Food, Wine & Song
Music & Feasting in Renaissance Europe
Harmonia Mundi USA 907314
Preceding (Dudley Phillips) A track from our first collaboration with Perfect Houseplants based on a conductus, Vetus abiit litera (The old law passes away). Authenticity was hardly our aim here, though we certainly tried to embrace improvisation in the same way that medieval singers and musicians did.
From Extempore
Linn Records CKD 076
Glory be (Glory be to God on high). Mark Lockheart. (b.1961) A composition for a collaboration with Perfect Houseplants, a British jazz group, that takes as its starting point the Mass as it might have been celebrated in the 15th century. The mass movement takes as its model the most famous of fifteenth century secular tunes, the L’Homme Armé tune.
From Extempore II
A Modern Mass for the Feast of St Michael
Harmonia Mundi USA 907319
Scattered Rhymes Part Two by Tarik O’Regan with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir conducted by Paul Hillier. This is from an album which combines ancient and modern in the form of Machaut’s famous Messe de Notre Dame (the first complete setting of the ordinary of the mass) and a selection of contemporary pieces by Gavin Bryars and Tarik O’Regan. The Orlando Consort has consistently championed new music and commissioned several new pieces as a way of reflecting on different compositional practices and challenging audience assumptions.
From Scattered Rhymes
Harmonia Mundi USA 807469
Salve Raga by Donald Greig. From our most recent disk, an exploration of the historic meeting of two musical cultures. When the Portuguese missionaries arrived in Goa in the sixteenth century, rather than simply imposing their music on the local inhabitants, they invited them to bring their own instruments and join in what must surely have been the very first example of crossover music.

The Orlando Consort has developed an understanding of over six hundred years of music that we could scarcely have envisaged when we took our first tentative steps in 1988. Twenty-one years later, we can look back over twenty-one recordings and more than five hundred concerts and discover a musical development and an appreciation of medieval music that derives from performing this vast and complex repertoire.

This brief selection offers a history of medieval music. There are many ways to write such a history dependent, in the first instance, on the materials at hand. Given that there are still key repertoires that we have yet to record the selection is inevitably limited. Nevertheless, this collection presents a valid picture of medieval music that offers us certain identifications with the past, most notably a sort of imaginary communion with the original performers who were, more often than not, also the original composers.

Nowhere is the overlap between composer and performer more evident than in improvised music. The earliest western European polyphony, from the ninth to twelfth centuries, emerged from various traditions all based on the addition of extra parts to extant plainchant (organum). These approaches continued to be the staple diet of the medieval period, but it is only in the earliest traditions that the music is notated. Alleluia v. Dies Sancificatus from the Winchester Troper is from the earliest collection of organum, and Mater Dei is an example of 12th. century Aquitanian repertory, so-called florid organum, where the top line decorates an existing tune to simple but haunting effect. With the Notre Dame School we first encounter the notation of rhythm, the renowned modal system (6/8, or compound time in our current notation). Benedicta – Virgo Dei genitrix lays two rhythmically incisive florid parts over extended plainchant notes sung by the ‘tenor’ part (the part that ‘holds’ the plainchant). A choir of men and boys perform the plainsong, much as they would have done in the great cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris in the 13th century. Parallel musical styles were being developed across the Channel in England and the Sanctus is from the collection of music known as the Worcester Fragments, material discovered in the bindings of later books in the library at Winchester Cathedral.

Philippe de Vitry a cleric ‘learned in all the mathematical disciplines’, is the chief representative, together with Guillaume de Machaut, of the fourteenth century school of ars nova (a reaction to the ars antiqua of Notre Dame school). De Vitry’s Vos quid admiramini, bears all the hallmarks of the new style; contrasting texted parts informed by mathematical design built over a plainsong laid out in extended notes. For all the intellectual rigour that one can trace in its construction, this motet nevertheless sounds strikingly fresh and tellingly musical.

Although the main patron and collector of music at this time was undoubtedly the Church, music was an essential part of court life. Machaut’s De toutes flours demonstrates a distinctively rich harmonic language and is a fine example of the traditional obsessions of courtly love. Antonio Zachara’s Sumite, karrisimi shows just how ornate and rhythmically convoluted the style known as ars subtilior could become, with its contrasting meters and leaping contratenor lines. This is music that could be appreciated on the page as much as in sound and showed great faith in the talent of the singers called upon to realise it.

In England, at the time of de Vitry, a very different concept of harmony was in place that favoured thirds and sixths rather than the more austere fifths and fourths favoured by the French. The aforementioned Sanctus, again based on plainchant, fulfils the most common medieval demand of music for ‘sweetness’. This innovative harmonic system led to one of the most influential musical compositional styles of the fifteenth century, a consonant, rich approach described by one contemporary commentator as the ‘contenance angloise’. Its greatest exponent was John Dunstaple, though his Gloria in canon shows him reaching back to earlier musical forms and re-working them in a new way. John Plummer’s Anna mater is very much a singer’s piece, the imitation between the parts setting up a friendly rivalry that makes music like this extremely satisfying to sing.

It was the Franco-Flemish school of composers who took up the challenge laid down by their English counterparts to refine and develop the most famous music of the fifteenth century. From the grandly ceremonial (Guillaume Dufay’s Ecclesiae Militantis) through the intimate (Antoine Busnois’ Ja que line s’i attende) to the Mass (Johannes Ockeghem’s De Plus en plus ) and motet (Loyset Compère’s Ave Maria ) the principles of imitation, consonance, and attention to text apply. Just as noticeable to us, as singers, is that this music was written by composer/singers with an understanding of the voice. Indeed, all these composers worked as singers at one time in their life: Dufay a chorister at Cambrai; Josquin Desprez at one time in the papal chapel at Rome. Compositions were expected of them as part of their employment even if their primary role was as a performer or administrator of some kind.

When Josquin honours Ockeghem in his exquisite Nymphes des bois Jean Molinet’s poem calls on Josquin himself, Pierre de la Rue (Pirchon), Antoine Brumel and Compère to acknowledge the debt owed to the previous generation. Employment for these composers was often sought in Italy so travel was a constant requirement. Music in the medieval period was always an international art, and the spread of manuscripts at the very beginning of the sixteenth century now meant that all Europeans – such as Francisco de Peñalosa and his countrymen in Spain - could develop their own national style built on the framework of the Franco-Flemish school (Versa est in luctum). Moving well into the C.16th, we feature music by Domnique Phinot, Ecce tu pulcher, typically lustrous polyphony representative of the Franco-Flemish school, effortless, consonant and all the more rich for exploiting five voices. Trinkt und Singt shows us in lighter style, this in many ways a party piece inviting everyone to enjoy themselves.

It’s easy to perform medieval music with a solemn face, even the more upbeat numbers, in part due to the fact that it’s the last music that one meets despite its chronological claim to be the first. Few other than university music specialists would know who Dufay was, Machaut even fewer. It’s through our presentation – programming, notes, address to audience – that we endeavour to provide our listeners with a way in to this fascinating, diverse and rewarding repertoire, but there is another way: crossover. It’s no mistake that, of our twenty-one disks, exactly one seventh are collaborations with contemporary musicians, nor that we have a disk which interweaves the medieval with modern compositions, a strategy we frequently employ in concert.

Extempore and Extempore II are collaborations with jazz musicians in the form of composing ensemble, Perfect Houseplants. The first disk explored music from the C.11th to C.13th and Dudley Phillips’ Preceding represents only one approach. Extempore II was the greater challenge, a reconstruction of a festive mass from the C.15th using the L’Homme Arme theme as the uniting motif for the ordinary (represented here by Mark Lockheart’s Glory Be, his version of the Gloria) and taking for the Propers the plainchant for the Feast of St Michael and All Angels.

Scattered Rhymes by Tarik O’Regan, like Gavin Bryars Ave Regina Celorum which also features on this album together, was commissioned for the ensemble. It was written for four solo voices and for choir and here that latter role was taken by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. The piece is in many ways a response to Machaut’s famous Messe de Nostre Dame, the wheel brought full circle.

Mantra is our most recent crossover project, a celebration of the first crossover when the Portuguese missionaries took their music to Goa and invited the local musicians to join in. Again it is the original music to which we return, but here it is refracted through a prism of contemporary British Asian musicians and our own response to the sound world which they inhabit.

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What am I listening to?

You are listening to Ave mundi rosa, a piece from the fourteenth-century, typically English in its use of sweet parallel harmonies. It is the latest in our ongoing series of recordings for Hyperion, a survey of English choral music from the late thirteenth to the early fourteenth centuries. You can hear more on the Hyperion website, read the engaging liner notes, and order or download tracks or the entire album in a number of formats.