This program illustrates the blossoming of European music from the middle ages to the Renaissance. Collaborating in it are two groups renowned for their artistry and insight in performing old music: the Deller Consort and Musica Antiqua of Vienna.
During the early middle ages, it was not unusual in Anglo-Saxon England to hear the liturgy in the common vernacular. A relic of this, although coming after the Norman conquest, is the simple and moving Crist and Sainte Marie by St. Godric, who was an uneducated Saxon hermit living in a cave in North England. He said that this song was sung to him by the soul of his dead sister, who appeared before him attended by angels. Medieval Latin, at this time, was going through a literary and musical flowering, and later examples of this from the 14th century, the age of Chaucer, are two English anonymous works; the florid Gloria and the lively Alleluya Psallat. A peak of English polyphonic vocal music came in the 15th century, and represented here are not only the widely renowned John Dunstable but two remarkable composers, Byttering and Leonel Power, about whom little is known except for the manuscripts bearing their name. Medieval Bohemia, richly productive in music, is represented here by Decet huius by Jan of Jenstejn, who was archbishop of Prague from 1380 to 1396, and two anonymous hymns of the late 15th century. Flanders, from the 14th century on, was a leading center of both musical composition and theory, and its musicians served all Europe. One such 14th century theorist-composer was Jean (or Johannes) Ciconia, who went from Liège to become a canon of Padua and Venice. The famous Heinrich (or Henricus) Isaac straddled the medieval and the Renaissance, born in Brabant and serving Lorenzo di Medici in Florence from 1480 to 1492.
The 16th century saw further musical development in many different nations. The Swiss composer, Ludwig Senfl, was a pupil of Isaac; Thomas Stoltzer, was born in Silesia and died in battle as chaplain of the Hungarian King Louis in 1526; the Spaniard Pedro de Escobar was maestro di capilla at Seville from 1507 to 1514; the Italian Giacomo Fogliano, wrote a lauda, Ave Maria, based on plainsong; and the most celebrated Italian composer of the period was Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Although this is the age of the Renaissance, the term "medieval" applied to this program has its justification; in most of the works here, we have not so much a break with as a direct line of development out of the middle ages.
Originally released as Vanguard/The Bach Guild BG-680