Fabrice Fitch
Gramophone
February 2015

This second Machaut recording by The Orlando Consort for Hyperion seems to me a return to their best form. Much of the time the musical and textual argument puts the spotlight on the consort’s younger members, the countertenor Matthew Venner and the higher tenor Mark Dobel (the lower parts being sung but not texted). Their agility and Venner’s clear, well-modulated timbre and admirable control of phrasing play no small part in The Orlandos’ rejuvenation: they appear to good effect in the consecutive tracks Quant en moy and S’Amours ne fait. The texts, which in Machaut’s case are particularly worth absorbing, are also more intelligible here than has sometimes been the case.

The programme is nicely varied in mood and scoring, ranging from four-voice ballades and motets to a single-voice virelai, and every combination in between. It also includes a higher proportion of pieces already present in the discography than the previous instalment (11/13), and in these pieces The Orlandos either find something new to say or say it particularly well (try Rose, lis, for example, or the melancholy Dame, je suis cils, which Gothic Voices had made their own, recording it not once but twice). Of those pieces new to the discography I’d single out the humorous hunter’s canon Se je chant mains by Machaut’s contemporary, Denis Le Grant, whose calls and barks are nicely suggested without the music descending into slapstick. A thoughtful essay by Anne Stone makes audible sense of the many connections between the pieces on this valuable, impressive recording.