St. George's Canzona was an English period-instrument ensemble that made about a dozen albums roughly between 1971 and 1985; like David Munrow's Early Music Consort of London, the group was among the late arrivals in the second generation of early music revivalists. Recorder player John Sothcott, who was a founding member of Musica Reservata under Michael Morrow in 1960, was the leader of St. George's Canzona. Despite its healthy recording activity, the group doesn't seem to have had much of a public profile, yet the recordings it left have been influential, particularly on groups such as Dufay Collective, who take a looser, more improvisatory approach to medieval dance music. This volume in Sanctuary Classics' Resonance series, Medieval Songs and Dances, collects 26 of the group's most appealing mid-'70s recordings in a generous, modestly priced single-disc package.
Recorded initially for three different Enigma LPs between 1976 and 1978, these tracks were compiled into this sequence for the first time on a 1994 ASV Quicksilva issue entitled A Medieval Banquet. Although the front cover of this Resonance re-release is a vast improvement over the generic looking Quicksilva issue, it's a shame that Sanctuary changed the title to Medieval Songs and Dances; it is likewise the title of an album St. George's Canzona made for CRD, its last, in 1985, and still in the active catalog. Despite the confusion, listeners who like their medieval music on the rough-hewn side should not miss this Resonance disc. In this era, Early Music Consort of London was the standard and it had a tendency to play instrumentals on the short, fast side, with few repeats, whereas it would devote comparatively more time to vocal pieces. St. George's Canzona did exactly the opposite; its version of Landini's Questa fanciulla is quick and fleet, but the Istampitta Ghaetta is taken at a slow, moderate tempo -- the direct ancestor of Dufay Collective's version made 15 years later.
The Resonance Medieval Songs and Dances is freshly remastered and is in startlingly realistic and immediate sound for something that originated with analog tapes. If you like the Hieronymus Bosch Concert in the Egg illustration on the front cover, then chances are you will love this disc -- it is not that far off what one hears inside.