Felix Femina: Scottish Medieval Polyphony

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Felix Femina: Scottish Medieval Polyphony Review

by Stephen Eddins

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.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Canty 03:47 Amazon
2 Canty 03:10 Amazon
3 Canty 05:41 Amazon
4 Canty 00:55 Amazon
5 Canty 05:58 Amazon
6 Canty 03:38 Amazon
7 Canty 04:00 Amazon
8 Canty 02:43 Amazon
9 Canty 00:46 Amazon
10 Canty 03:00 Amazon
11 Canty 04:38 Amazon
12 Canty 00:44 Amazon
13 Canty 03:36 Amazon
14 Canty 00:46 Amazon
15 Canty 05:13 Amazon
16 Canty 06:53 Amazon
17 Canty 02:40 Amazon
18 Canty 02:00 Amazon
19 Canty 00:55 Amazon
20 Canty 01:44 Amazon
21 Canty 01:19 Amazon
22 Canty 00:58 Amazon
23 Canty 00:41 Amazon
24 Canty 04:54 Amazon
25 Canty 01:22 Amazon
26 Canty 05:45 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick