Graindelavoix / Björn Schmelzer

Motets: Music from Northern France - The Cambrai Manuscript A 410

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Graindelavoix and its director, Björn Schmelzer, have been praised for their imaginative approach to interpreting early music, especially for emphasizing the qualities of individual voices, as opposed to presenting a blended ensemble sound. This recording of vocal music from the Cambrai manuscript A 410 offers a few motets credited to Gobin de Rains and Eustache le Peintre de Rains, though most of the tracks are by that ubiquitous medieval composer, Anonymous. However, the figure Schmelzer looks to for inspiration is the architect Villard de Honnecourt, whose travels across medieval Europe suggested the methods and choice of repertoire for Graindelavoix's trilogy of CDs, Ossuaires, Confréries, and this third volume, Motets. Schmelzer employs male and female voices, which are accompanied by fiddle, guiterne, and lute, and the pieces represent the mix of sacred and secular music of the Cambrai region, near the area where Villard de Honnecourt operated. Of course, little of the history is apparent to the ear, and the music is what matters most to listeners, who may or may not appreciate the finer aspects of "cathedralism" and its impact on 13th century music. Instead, the melismatic vocals and austere instrumental music convey the appropriate atmosphere and expressiveness of northern French motets, creatively interpreted to the best of the group's abilities.

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