Ensemble Organum

Le Mystère des Templiers

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The Knights Templars, who held sway in Jerusalem for a century, developed Europe's first financial system and were violently disbanded by French King Phillip the Fair in concord with Pope Clement V, have long been a source of fascination to scholar and layman alike. Accessing the music that they sang would presumably bring us closer to the world of the Templars than, say, a Wikipedia article might, so Naïve has its thinking cap on in compiling Le Mystère des Templiers from recordings in its own catalog. Up front it is clear that a crucial contributing source is Marcel Pérès and Ensemble Organum's Ambroisie disc Le chant de Templiers, in which the Ensemble Organum sing from a 12th century manuscript, kept in Jerusalem, once used by the Templars themselves. The balance of the disc is lent to a number of selections that can be seen as loosely related to the Templars or belonging to their time period. This would include Ensemble Gilles Binchois singing Notre Dame Organa, Discantus performing music of Hildegard von Bingen and anonymous works, and Alla Francesca playing the popular hits of the day.

All of these original recordings, within and without their proper context, are a delight, as are all of the original albums from which they were taken. Not quite so delightful are the brief and opaque liner notes, which barely manage to provide context for the music, let alone nail down how it related to the order of the Templars, which not all of it does. Likewise there are no texts included for a disc that is essentially vocal most of the way through and sung in languages relatively few actively speak (i.e., Latin, Provençal French, and Catalan). However, as a purely listening experience it flows well and is enjoyable just as a kind of medieval musical sampler; those not expert in the area who just want to try out some medieval music to see if they like it will find Naïve's Le Mystère des Templiers an instructive and worthwhile experience, even if it does not provide the whole lowdown on the Templars and their music; that is best heard on the Ambroisie disc Le chant de Templiers.

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