Music on cd

The Passion of Reason Sour Cream Glossa/Harmonia Mundi GCD 921102 (2 discs)

They arrive from the far distance like a trio of angelic troubadours (you may have heard them on Radio 3's In Tune), three flautists intoning "Ma fin est mon commencement" by Guillaume de Machaut. Thereafter, early music melds with distant bird song for a sweet and edifying diversion, ranging across two discs and surveying a whole host of ancient miniatures, from a busy Canon by Johann Walter to Jannequin's lively L'Alouette; from Solage and the ubiquitous "anon" to Robert Fayrfax and the fading spectre Bach's self-renewing Canon per augmentationem.

Sour Cream finds Frans Bruggen, Kees Boeke and Waiter van Hauwe mixing and matching music where "reason and passion" blend, a concept that Boeke explains with the help of pertinent printed quotations from Roman and Greek philosophers and various music theorists of the period. But the theory is optional: what matters most is the music itself, whether sombre and austere like Solage's Fumex, fume par fumee (with added viola da gamba) or hypnotically formulaic like Thomas Preston's achingly beautiful (and decidedly pre-Minimalist) Upon La Mi Re. Fayrfax's That Was My Woe and Newark's The Farther I Go summon sweet singing by Isabel Alvarez and the final sequence opens to Boeke's own Bachian Eclipse, conceived - like everything else on the disc - in terms of order, symmetry and spirit.

Recordings and presentation are exemplary.

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