Jean Guyot, 'priest, composer, author, teacher—was a leading light in mid-sixteenth century Liège, and known in the wider Habsburg Empire'. There is certainly a great deal more information about Guyot in David Gostick’s booklet notes than in the current Wikipedia entry. We can read in a fair amount of detail about his career and travels to Vienna, and about each work recorded.
The attraction of this less well-known music is also wrapped in its performers, the five male voices of Cinquecento, whom I last encountered in their excellent recording of Richafort’s Requiem and an earlier recording of works by Jacob Regnart. The full and rich sound of Cinquecento, with their perfect intonation and superbly balanced and proportioned phrasing, suits Guyot’s reserved and devotional polyphony perfectly. Even without reinforcement from an extra countertenor voice for six-part works such as the extensive Te Deum laudamus, this is a sound that generates its own feel of monumental timelessness. The resonant acoustic of the venue also helps in this regard, though each vocal line is clear as a bell, and the stereo definition of the recording is a joy to behold.
Sublime from start to finish, this a very special listening experience. You can allow it to roll over you as a delicious atmosphere. You can also descend into it for an immersive aural/intellectual journey, tracing imitations and melismas along with the texts printed in the booklet, given in Latin and both English and German translations. If you listen without concentrating, each piece can sound a little similar to the rest. With the performers’ consistency of pace, there is an argument for dipping into this programme rather than trying to absorb it all in one go. For variety, Te Deum laudamus is a good place to start; it contrasts monody and polyphony with moments of plainchant and often remarkably compact settings of the text. Guyot shows how much expression he can pack into the setting of just a few words.
There are no real highlights, since the quality of the whole is so consistently high, but for a sampler you might try the six-part Accepit Jesus panem: the interaction between left and right voices has a rather special character, and the major/minor key relationships and expressive melodic lines combine to create something really magnificent.
If you look for Jean Guyot on CD anywhere else, this will probably be the only recording that will emerge from your search engine. This is a situation likely to be remedied on the strength of this Cinquecento release. We are privileged to be offered such a marvellous introduction to this genuinely obscure but unfairly neglected master. The distinctive family look of this disc, with Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s Flora features looking out at us, is a suitable topping to this fruitiest of musical cakes.