Canty, the Scottish women's quartet specializing in early music, was founded in 1998, the 900th anniversary of Hildegard's birth. The group in many ways resembles Anonymous 4 in the purity of the individual voices and warm vocal blend, (although they occasionally miss the spot-on perfect intonation), and in the type of repertoire it sings. The first half of this CD is devoted to a thirteenth century Scottish Ladymass; coincidentally, perhaps, An English Ladymass was one of Anonymous 4's most popular releases. The collection of music set to texts honoring the Blessed Virgin is set down in a thirteenth century manuscript, the St. Andrews Music Book. The manuscript is significant because it represents one of the first documents to incorporate the changes that brought the Celtic liturgical tradition into line with Roman practices. It is one of the few extant documentations of Medieval Scottish music, surviving the destruction of the Scottish churches during the English Reformation because a copy had found its way to Germany. The music, some of it monophonic chant and some polyphonic, with occasional discreet accompaniment from a medieval harp, is notable for the luminous serenity of its moods. Canty maintains an elevated, ethereal tone, while at the same time keeping up a strong sense of support and momentum so the music never sags, in spite of its relaxed pace. William Taylor, who provides the accompaniment, also offers several attractive instrumental interludes. The sound is nicely spacious, with good resonance, but is a little bright.
Felix Femina: Scottish Medieval Polyphony Review
by Stephen Eddins