This is the second recording of Machaut's music by the all-male Orlando Consort (countertenor on top), and their way with Machaut is excellent. They have a nice, light tone in the secular pieces that contrasts with the more severe Gothic Voices, and they convey the weighty, ceremonial quality of the big motets. Machaut goes far enough back that nobody can be sure of how it sounded (and the graphics for this all-vocal album show a painting including instruments), but if you like the unaccompanied approach, this will do as well as anything for putting the basic sound of Machaut in your head. And "basic," in the best way, describes this album in another respect as well: the booklet notes by Anne Stone (given in English and French) give the most complete, and more importantly most enthusiastic, introduction one could ask for in a few pages to Machaut's stylistic world. While so many recordings and writings treat the multiple texts in Machaut, for example, as a medieval eccentricity and an annoyance, Stone shows how the texts, even sacred and secular ones together, comment on and reinforce each other, and are reinforced by the music. The album includes examples of most of the major Machaut genres: motet, rondeau, ballade, and virelai, missing only the monophonic lai (whose world is indeed hard to put across in a few pieces). For a library-cornerstone Machaut album, you would be hard pressed to do better than this.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim