Gothic Voices' Gramophone Award-winning album of late Medieval Italian vocal music, A Song for Francesca, takes its title from one of its selections, which has a double meaning; translated from the Italian, it can mean either a song for a woman named Francesca, or a song in the French style. The music, largely from northern Italy, was written with a strong awareness of developments in French polyphony, and while these pieces have a directness and clarity that are typically Italian, many employ the latest French contrapuntal devices. The ballatas, madrigals, and rondeaux typically have a formal simplicity, compared to their northern European counterparts, with repeating sections and text setting that places emphasis on the comprehension of the text, a value sometimes overlooked by French and Flemish composers. The rondeaux, in particular, have an emotional directness and communicativeness that make them especially accessible to modern audiences. Gothic Voices sings with absolutely pure tone and blend. For this album, the group uses a mixed ensemble consisting of an alto, a contralto, and three tenors. The predominance of high male voices so close in range to the female voices gives the music a high center of tonal gravity and occasionally leaves the listener longing for more timbral variety, specifically the occasional use of lower male voices. For the listener who can adjust to the ensemble's limitations of vocal range, the refined yet exuberant performances are a pleasure. Andrew Lawrence-King and Christopher Page, the group's conductor, offer interludes played on the medieval harp. Hyperion's sound is crisp and clean, with good resonance.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins