Ensemble Syntagma

Gautier d'Épinal: Remembrance

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The identity of the trouvère poet and composer Gaultier d'Épinal is much in dispute; the name has been hypothetically connected with two individuals, one active in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, and the other active in the mid-thirteenth, dying in 1272. Whoever he may have been, the several dozen chansons attributed to him are identifiable as the work of a particular individual, both in the character of the poetry, which is philosophical and inward even when the subject is love, and the music, which tends toward melancholy reflection. The French ensemble Syntagma plays and sings music of d'Épinal and other thirteenth and fourteenth century trouvères with delicacy and grace; they bring a pastel-hued interpretation to the repertoire rather than the rough-and-tumble vigor that some groups find in the music of this period. The program notes acknowledge the difficulty of ever being able to discern the exact intent of the composers based on the scant level of detail the manuscripts include; Syntagma even performs one of d'Épinal's chansons in two versions, one rhythmically free, the other with emphatically metrical vigor, and each version has its virtues and appeal. The most effective selections are those featuring countertenor Akira Tachikawa and mezzo-soprano Annemieke Cantor; together they create a pure and lovely blend. The instruments are deployed with unusual sensitivity to textures and colors. The hushed, subdued character of the CD makes it an excellent choice for quiet listening as well as for fully focused attention. The sound is intimate and warm. Both the rarity of the repertoire and the extraordinarily fine performances make this a CD that should be of strong interest to fans of medieval music.

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