Binchois (& Ockeghem) chansons

Quinze
Binchois / Ockeghem
Comet Musicke
Son an ero 13 [CDx2]

I'm trying not to let my frustrations with learning about new albums color my opinions of the music, but that can be a challenge sometimes. This is another album I didn't know about until later — & luckily a reader clued me into it, so thanks for that! — and it doesn't seem to be available through ordinary retail channels either. That's to say, rather, that a download version is widely available, and the double CD is only available through the performers...? (I'd be willing to move to downloads, but they still seem so often to lack documentation....)

Anyway, this program is obviously of high interest, particularly since the song renditions are relatively compact here, making for an extensive program. I found the Ockeghem selections to sound a bit awkward at first, but I've also warmed up to them. In particular with some of the items they've chosen, one begins to hear some continuity back perhaps even to e.g. Perugia et al.... (In other words, the ubiquitous thirds are contextualized historically, rather than read retrospectively as affirmations of modernity....)

And that's perhaps the most notable aspect of this interpretation, besides the study of phrasing via manuscript incipits that initiated it, that it really starts to make Binchois sound historically continuous with the later Ars Subtilior. Despite the discussion of instrumentation suggesting novelty, the basic scorings & even sonorities/techniques are not so different from those by Graindelavoix, but those are also more extended readings (& recorded with too much resonance...), making the work by Comet Musicke something of a continuation. However, the phrasing does seem increasingly "right" in so many ways, even as I still find too much part doubling at times (& even some ritardandi effects — which I've never really liked...).

(And I still don't really care for the poetic recitations that appear in a few transitional moments, but this sort of program choice does have a history, back through e.g. EGB's Machaut....)

Both albums thus come off as somewhat rough compared to smoother interpretations elsewhere, particularly out of the English school, but the resulting unfamiliarity tends to pass, making this a rather enjoyable & revealing recital, also suggesting different rhetorical stances for different genres....

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Todd M. McComb
Updated: 8 March 2021