The Rose, The Lily & the Whortleberry

Medieval and Renaissance gardens in music

In celebration of the floral imagery used by many of Europe's greatest composers over a span of 300 years to depict both earthly and heavenly love, the Orlando Consort sings poetic texts ranging from the sacred to the downright suggestive. Includes essays by Sir Roy Strong, Susan Hitch; and a garden design created by Christopher Bradley-Hole.

"Harmonia Mundi has always taken pride in its artful packaging, but this tops all....The expert Orlando Consort....renders [the music] here in a refined yet flexible and varied musical style. What comes next from the group is anyone's guess, but count on it to be luxurious." —James R. Oestreich, The New York Times

"The Orlando Consort and Harmonia Mundi have delivered another inspired, enlightening, and entertaining project, first-class from cover to cover and from first note to last." — David Vernier,  

"The Orlando Consort's latest recording explores the Medieval and Renaissance garden. Pleasure gardens, kitchen gardens, herb gardens, orchards and forbidden fruit jostle for attention with the erotic landscapes of the Song of Songs, the rose of Courtly Love, a sharp encounter with a pruning knife, and meadows where les high-minded folk enjoyed an amorous tumble. A cleverly designed programme moves from 13th century French and English motets and chansons to the madrigals of 16th century Italy, with artful and acerbic singing. A must for any horticulturally-minded music-lover." — Anna Picard, The Independent

"This gorgeous package is like a CD-sized hardback book, full of beautiful medieval paintings and photographs of surviving gardens. The performances are of the high standard expected of the Orlando Consort. As well as demonstrating the evolution of musical styles over 300 years, the programme illustrates the popularity of horticultural metaphor for divine and Earthly (not to say, earthy) love. Even settings of risqué lyrics have an elegance that would disarm the most puritanical listener, and it's all sung with clarity and grace. Altogether a garden of delights."

[Performance: five stars / Sound: five stars] —Barry Witherden, BBC Music Magazine

"The four-man Consort sings with ideal purity, their well-blended voices weaving in and out of the complex contrapuntal lines. In a French chanson about a maid's deflowering, they sing with a rhythmic zest you could dance to..."

"Performances are first rate. At over 76 minutes, timing is generous. And the packaging is downright opulent."

"The engineering is ideal. Voices have body, timbres are true, and the ensemble singing is transparent."

[Music: four stars / Sonics: four stars] — Dan Davis, The Absolute Sound

"Probably the first CD to include instructions for designing a neo-medieval garden. But that's just the iceberg's tip: the music matches the ideas in floral imagery and artful design, with courtly love lyrics, bawdy chansons, and Song of Songs settings from composers such as Machaut, Gombert and the excellent Anonymous. The Consort's five male voices (unaccompanied) inflect text and line with precision and passion." — Geoff Brown, The Times

"Rarely does an early music CD afford as luscious a feast for the eye as for the ear. This one, however, comes with an elegant hardback book containing a generous measure of background information, and also a gorgeous selection of beautifully reproduced medieval and Renaissance paintings, in which gardens feature as the scene of hard horticultural labour as well as amorous assignation.

Song of Songs settings bulk large among the sacred items in the imaginatively chosen programme, which moves chronologically from Machaut to the mid-16th century. Thanks to the luminous clarity of the Orlando Consort's all-male sound and their finely nuanced attention to interpretative detail, motets such as Guerrero's serene Quasi cedrus and Brumel's exquisitely simple and tender Sicut lilium lose nothing of their effect in these one-to-a-part performances.

The more delicately expressive secular pieces, such as Machaut's mellifluous Rose, liz, printemps, benefit from a similar approach. Earthier ones such as Clemens non Papa's frankly indecent, innuendo-laden Au ioly bocquet and Sermisy's graphically inebriated paean to the viticulturist's pruning-knife, Changeons propos, produce an altogether more robust response." — Elizabeth Roche, The Daily Telegraph

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What am I listening to?

You are listening to a commemorative motet, ‘Quis dabit capiti meo aquam’, by the composer, Heinrich Isaac (c1450-1517). Specifically, you will hear the last of the four sections of this beautiful piece, a lament on the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici in April 1492. It is one track from our latest disk, The Florentine Renaissance, produced by Hyperion records (DA68349), a rich and varied selection of secular and sacred music, an aural collage of the vibrant city of Florence in the early Renaissance.