Echoes of an Old Hall

Echoes of an Old Hall
Gothic Voices
Linn Records 644

The punnish title here refers to the English Old Hall Manuscript as well as to music of the next generation (e.g. Dufay, Binchois...) influenced by this English musical activity. The former basically involved (in part, belatedly) taking up the continental Ars Nova style, leading to striking syntheses in that area — & in turn to continental syntheses reflecting English (discant) style. This music thus sits at a historical crossroads, as emphasized by the construction of the program in two (not strictly separated) halves.

So whereas I might (as usual) prefer a more concentrated program, e.g. featuring one of these aspects, or even more internal consistency regarding genre (as the second half, especially, involves various secular music as well...), this selection is ultimately prompted by the quality of the interpretation.

It seems that we are really in the "next generation" of medieval interpretations here — all vocal in this case, which is not how Gothic Voices had handled their recent Dufay album (but is obviously their legacy...) — with greater transparency & precision than most previous attempts. This music is really coming to "make sense" — as e.g. the big isorhythmic motet from Dunstaple comes off spectacularly... — especially for these transitional styles that seem to occupy a historical inflection point: In particular, the ubiquitous thirds are still tuned according to medieval priorities here, i.e. emphasizing fifths, rather than attempting to "anticipate" a tonal style.... E.g. Dufay's (hard won) "smooth" style thus comes to simmer with internal complexity.

To medieval sacred list.

Todd M. McComb
Updated: 17 June 2021