Medieval French composer Guillaume de Machaut is best known for his Messe de Nostre Dame, the first complete mass setting by a single composer in Western music history. Yet in his lifetime and for centuries afterwards, he was more widely admired for his poetry and songs about courtly love, typically cast in the forms of the ballade, the lai, the virelai, and the rondeau. The Orlando Consort's 2018 release on Hyperion, Machaut: The Gentle Physician, is titled after a phrase in the penultimate selection, Le lay de confort, where the gentle physician or dous mire is Hope, the balm of the afflicted and unlucky in love. Machaut's vocal music has had no better advocates than the Orlando Consort, who have released six superb albums of his works, and continue to bring life to his intricate and intrinsically difficult music. The Ars Nova movement of the 14th century relied on complicated isorhythms and flexible polyphony to communicate emotions in a highly mannered style, and Machaut's writing requires a great deal of agility and finesse for its effectiveness. The Orlando Consort -- countertenor Matthew Venner, tenors Mark Dobell and Angus Smith, and baritone Donald Greig -- has completed half of its projected 12-disc series of Machaut's works, and the high quality of this 2018 release gives hope for the continued success of this project.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson