English Late Medieval Polyphony

Beneath the Northern Star
The Rise of English Polyphony, 1275-1430
Orlando Consort
Hyperion 68132

This is a rather technical program, illustrating a diverse English output covering more than a century. It includes what is called the Ars Nova period on the continent, a period during which England's music might have been considered conservative, but which could also be characterized as developing new styles in continuity with the Ars Antiqua. At its best, the shifting tonal colors of Ars Antiqua style combine with the increased rhythmic sophistication of Ars Nova notation to produce a kaleidoscopic result. Such a result was to go on to influence Burgundian composers in the next generation.

The Orlando Consort have a long history performing this & overlapping music, providing a good perspective on its evolution through the period. Articulation & precision in general are excellent, particularly given the sometimes bizarre counterpoint in this (often, seemingly) experimental repertory.

While the program cannot be considered definitive in any sense, coming as it does from many sources, it is quite fascinating as a look at English music in this era.

To medieval sacred list

Todd M. McComb