Gothic Voices, Christopher Page (conductor)
The first section of this programme explores the remarkable sonorities of three- and four-part writing during the last decades of the fourteenth century and the first decades of the fifteenth. Laus detur multipharia is a curiosity in many ways, not least because it is a devotional Latin virelai; the setting has a beauty touched by strangeness that characterizes many French songs of the later 1300s—note the hocketing passages and the surprising harmonic shift which occurs at the end of the B section, first heard at the words ‘Veritas monstratur hoRUM’, the latter reminiscent of some Ars subtilior chansons such as Joyeux de cuer by Solage. Pursuing the French song tradition beyond 1400, we find that the substantial legacy of the composer Matteo da Perugia includes the exquisitely decorous Belle sans per, a song whose determinedly busy under-parts and unpredictable sharps recall fourteenth-century textures such as that of Laus detur multipharia, but whose consonant texture looks forward to later works such as Quant la douce jouvencelle. Quant la douce jouvencelle is one of the most beautiful of all early fifteenth-century songs, with the high plainness which composers of the 1420s and 1430s often sought.