This is the third disc that the Orlando Consort have devoted to the music of the 14th-century poet-composer Guillaume de Machaut. Their previous two CDs, Songs from Le Voir Dit (2013) and The Dart of Love (2015), established for these performers an approach that is attractive, suave and measured.
We do not expect these pieces to be overtly expressive in the manner of later music, but it is good to see that Se mesdisans en acort, a defiant solo song against evil gossip, attracts an appropriately spirited performance from the tenor Angus Smith.
Elsewhere (e.g. Plus dure), the rather ‘English’ ooey-ness of the vowels seems anodyne, and I began to miss the slightly rough, nasal French enunciation found on recordings of 14th century music by, for example, the Clemencic Consort. Some of the pieces (pas de tor) do not have texts in the lower parts, and so are sung to vowel sounds; this works reasonably well so long as the top ‘melody’ is not overwhelmed. These recordings employ the latest edition of Machaut’s works being prepared by Yolande Plumley and Barton Palmer, which makes a considerable difference to pieces such as the motet Aucune gentewhich the performers have further transformed by moments of subtle embellishment.