The music of Guillaume Dufay is often said to lie on the boundary between medieval and Renaissance. It is complex in the manner of medieval polyphony, sometimes with multiple texts in different languages, and intricate rhyme schemes. Yet, in its evocative use of vertical sonority and its original texts in the songs, it approaches a manner of text-setting that you can recognize as modern. His chansons are not often recorded, so this release of 18 chansons from the Orlando Consort would be welcome on general principles; it has virtues considerably beyond that. The program, and its gloss in the booklet or online materials, go a long way toward bringing this rather difficult music to life. The Orlando Consort, a quartet of male singers (countertenor, two tenors, and baritone), does well to begin with the so-called Lament for Constantinople, written by Dufay after the fall of the Eastern Empire to the Turks in 1453. He marks this event with two texts, one in French, and one drawn from the Book of Lamentations, and the result here for the listener is to hear the specific meanings in the rather general melancholy texts of these songs. Annotator David Fallows, a veteran in this repertory, contributes excellent notes that similarly go into the meanings of the other chansons on the album: they were all written for specific times and reasons. The Consort sings beautifully, with a bit of passion, not in the ethereal style so often used for Renaissance polyphony. They'd have even more intensity were it not for Hyperion's impersonal church acoustic here. This is an excellent choice for the general listener and for the student of Dufay alike.
Guillaume Dufay: Lament for Constantinople Review
by James Manheim
O tres piteulx / Omnes amici, Lamentatio sancte matris ecclesie Constantinopolitane, Motet-Chanson 4vv