Leslie Richford | Selsingen, Lower Saxony | 02/18/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Laude di Sancta Maria: Veillée de chants de dévotion dans l'Italie des Communes". Anonymous monodic chant and song as performed by the "Laudesi" in Florence and other Italian cities in the High Middle Ages according to manuscripts in the libraries of Cortona and Florence.
La Reverdie here consists of four female voices (Claudia Caffagni, Livia Caffagni, Elisabetta de' Mircovich, Ella de' Mircovich), four male voices (Doron David Sherwin, Sergio Foresti, Roberto Spremulli and Matteo Zenatti). The singers also play the instruments: lute, vielle, recorder, symphonia, Gothic harp, cornetto, drums and bells. Additionally, on one or two tracks, there is an organ (organistum), played by Paolo Zerbinatti.
The recording was made in June 1994 at the Benedictine Abbey of Sesto al Reghena, Italy, under the auspices of Charlotte Gilart de Keranflec'h and Klaus L. Neumann. Producers were the much-lamented late Michel Bernstein and Klaus L. Neumann. The total time of the CD is seventy-one and a half minutes. Arcana A34 (co-production with West German Radio).
This, the fifth album by the Italian medieval ensemble La Reverdie, presents a programme of monophonic chant and song representing the piety of the "Laudesi" in central Italy in the Middle Ages. The "Laudesi" were groups of lay people, including women, who came together for devotional evenings and other occasions to sing songs devoted in the main to the Virgin Mary. The CD represents an "idealised reconstruction" of a "Vigilia alle Laude", taking the listener through various stages of devotion related to the Gospel story and deliberately cultivating the mystical and meditative aspects of the music, which has been transmitted to us only in the typically medieval square notation and thus requires considerable interpretative effort (and grants considerable interpretative freedom). That the result is hauntingly beautiful goes without saying, despite the relative simplicity of the melodies, whose very repetitiveness seems to contribute to the "spiritual" atmosphere which pervades the whole CD. As with other CDs by this remarkable ensemble, the whole seems to be more than its individual parts, and the combination of eight naive-sounding voices with sparse medieval instruments plus the delights of a long, informative musicological essay by two of the group's ladies (Claudia Caffagni and Ella de Mircovich) and the excellent engineering one has come to expect from Arcana make for some fascinating listening. Of course, from a theological standpoint (at least from my evangelical one), the texts are hair-raisingly heretical, but anyone who is drawn to this music will see and hear it in its context and be inclined to overlook the sensuous pre-Reformation Mariolatry.
All texts are printed in Italian, French, English and German."