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Le Banquet Du Voeu; Dufay: Ecce Ancilla Domini / Vellard


Release Date: 10/10/2000 
Label:  Virgin Classics Veritas Catalog #: 61818   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Guillaume DufayJacques VideAnonymousGuillaume Legrant,   ... 
Performer:  Antoine GuerberPhilippe BalloyJacques BonaAkira Tachikawa,   ... 
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The curious thing abot supposedly 'authentic' recordings of medieval music is that they almost certainly provide a more accurate reflection of current academic concerns and technical possibilities than of the performing techniques of medieval musicians. At least, it may be possible that we are gradually getting closer to what music actually sounded like in, say, the fourteenth century, as the sparse shreds of evidence are disinterred and disentangled, but there are still enormous leaps in the dark to be made during the decision-making process. The direction and manner in which that leap is taken is what identifies a recording or performance with its own time. Thus, the brilliantly colourful but slightly raucous sound-world of David Munrow Read more and his followers dominated the 1960s and 1970s, while a new, vocally-orientated and much more refined approach was adopted by Gothic Voices during the 1980s. This new and important recording from the Gilles Binchois Ensemble inherits elements of both approaches: instruments are used, but more sparingly and with subtler effects, and in accordance with the current state of musicological research into the performance of the fifteenth-century chanson, a subject on which no one knows more than DF, consultant for the project.

Not many groups are recording this repertory at the present time, and so the Gilles Binchois Ensemble's reconstruction of the celebrated Feast of the Pheasant (originally held in February 1454, supposedly as a prelude to a new crusade against the Turks) makes an important contribution for this fact alone. But there is more to it than that. The idea of reconstructing a historical event of this kind, with as much of the original music as possible, or with educated guesses as to what that repertory was, is now a well tried formula and one that has worked well on disc and in the concerthall. I think it is particularly successful here simply because the items are so brief: the songs or instrumental pieces rarely last longer than five minutes, and most fall between one and three minutes in length. Grouping them in this way gives a satisfying sense of cohesion to a repertory that is now unfamiliar to us and prepares us mentally to accept the patchwork of pieces in one continuous stretch, whereas originally they would have been spread out over an entire evening of feasting, dancing and other entertainments.

The brevity of the individual items should not worry us: in pop music, after all, the songs are usually of an equivalent duration, and it is a relatively recent phenomenon that length has become a concern in art music—perhaps Schumann with his divine longueurs has a lot to answer for. The parallel between pop songs and the medieval formes fixes can be taken rather further in their shared purpose (general entertainment with a wide appeal), shared structure (repeated cells of music based on a refrain scheme) and shared content (a finite pool of imagery and vocabulary on a single theme: love). There is little doubt that many, if not most, of the songs on this recording would have been well known to the audience of knights and courtiers gathered together for the occasion. It may not be too fanciful, in the heightened emotion engendered by the event, to imagine a courtier turning to his lady and saying "They're playing our tune".

The research behind the choice of pieces for the Feast makes the whole thing very convincing, and, for the most part, so are the performances. Care is taken to treat each piece, however brief, as a separate entity in terms of what scoring and approach is required. Dufay's Ave regina celorum, for example, is sung a cappella, the three voices weaving their independent lines on equal terms. If they do not achieve the mellifluous blend of the all-vocal renditions of Gothic Voices, the music is at least projected without interference from instrumental doublings. However, the balance between the voices in what is essentially a chordal texture is sometimes rather strange on this recording. The most successful all-vocal items are perhaps Binchois' hymn-setting Gloria, laus et honor where the singers acheive a forthright, grainy quality of sound that somehow suits its chantbased structure, and the lusciously beautiful sonority of three equal female voices in Dufay's je me complains pitieusement.

Most of the songs performed entirely on instruments are taken from the few surviving contemporary instrumental versions, so the Gilles Binchois Ensemble can be entirely justified in the historical sense in presenting them in this way, even if the scoring (recorders, say, instead of keyboard) takes one of those pragmatic leaps in the dark. The playing is generally very good, sweettoned and alive to the rhythmic intricacies—or simplicities—of the pieces. The dance rhythms in the anonymous Une foys avant que morir, for example, are well brought out by the nimblyplayed combination of bas instruments.

Harp, lute and viêle are used to accompany the voice in some of the other songs. There can be little doubt that chansons were performed in this way at times, with the plucked instrument or instruments taking the other lines of a polyphonic songs, and in practice it has persuasive results. Anne-Marie Lablaude has a beautifully pure voice, but her rendition of the anonymous rondeau Adieu ma tres belle maistresse is simply too bland for my taste. For all the convention of imagery and conceit in the verse, I can't imagine that it would have been sung with as little engagement as here. Dominique Vellard is perhaps nearer the mark in his rather more lively account of Binchois's Vostre tres doulx regart; he at least uses the language to give impetus to the vocal line and responds to its climaxes. The problem is that the voice too often sounds unsupported.

If I have some reservations, then, about some of the performances, these are not sufficient to detract from the overall pleasure to be had from the recording, nor from its importance as a document in sound of the latest in musicological research.

-- Gramophone [3/1992]
reviewing disc 1, originally released as Virgin 91441


In 1467, Piero de’Medici called Dufay ‘the greatest ornament of our age’, but today few people know more than a handful of his songs. This Missa Ecca ancilla Domini is one of his four late Masses, and it’s performed here with Propers – chants specific to a particular feast in the Church year – from an anonymous cycle of around 1440, possibly by Dufay himself. All four Masses are based on a pre-existent melody that is carried as a cantus firmus in the tenor, but this setting is unique in that it uses two different melodies: the antiphon Ecce ancilla Domini in the first half of each movement and Beata es Maria in the second half. Although it’s perhaps his most contemplative Mass, the Ensemble Gilles Binchois offers a fairly muscular performance – the full textures are luxuriant, but at the same time, individual voice parts are clearly delineated. Their intonation is not always secure in the more exposed passages, and the ensemble is occasionally slack, but this is nevertheless a musical account, with a virility so often missing from English vocal ensembles. A welcome addition to the thin catalogue of Dufay recordings.

-- Kate Bolton, BBC Music Magazine
reviewing the Dufay mass, previously released as Virgin 45050
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Works on This Recording

1. Missa "Ecce ancilla Domini" by Guillaume Dufay
Performer:  Antoine Guerber (Tenor), Philippe Balloy (Bass), Jacques Bona (Bass),
Akira Tachikawa (Countertenor), Jean Nirouët (Countertenor), Pascal Bertin (Countertenor),
Christophe Einhorn (Tenor), Edmund Brownless (Tenor), Raphaël Boulay (Tenor)
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 1460s; Cambrai, France 
Date of Recording: 09/1992 
Venue:  Abbey of Vaucelles, France 
Length: 64 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
2. Et c'est assez by Jacques Vide
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Medieval 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 1 Minutes 35 Secs. 
3. Une foys avant que morir by Anonymous
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Medieval 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 2 Minutes 39 Secs. 
4. Wilhelmus Legrant by Guillaume Legrant
Performer:  Georges Lartigau (Organ)
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Medieval 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 1 Minutes 26 Secs. 
5. Ave regina celorum by Guillaume Dufay
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 1 Minutes 43 Secs. 
6. Au chant de l'alowette by Anonymous
Performer:  Pierre Hamon (Cornemuse)
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 1 Minutes 23 Secs. 
7. Je ne vis oncques la pareille by Gilles Binchois
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; Burgundy, France 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 4 Minutes 40 Secs. 
Language: French 
8. Vostre tres doulx regart plaisant by Gilles Binchois
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; Burgundy, France 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 4 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Language: French 
9. Gloria laus et honor by Gilles Binchois
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; Burgundy, France 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 6 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
10. Je ne requier de ma dame by Nicolas Grenon
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 2 Minutes 37 Secs. 
11. Je me complains piteusement by Guillaume Dufay
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 1425; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 2 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Language: French 
12. Ellend, du hast umfangen mich by Anonymous
Performer:  Georges Lartigau (Organ)
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Medieval 
Written: Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 1 Minutes 53 Secs. 
13. Pour vous tenir by Pierre Fontaine
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Medieval 
Written: 15th Century; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 2 Minutes 58 Secs. 
Language: French 
14. Du cuer je soupire by Anonymous
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Medieval 
Written: 15th Century; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 1 Minutes 56 Secs. 
15. Seule esgarée de tout joyeulx plaisir by Gilles Binchois
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; Burgundy, France 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 5 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Language: French 
16. Venise by Anonymous
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Medieval 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 2 Minutes 45 Secs. 
17. Il m'est si grief by Jacques Vide
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Medieval 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 5 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Language: French 
18. Preambulum super re by Anonymous
Performer:  Georges Lartigau (Organ)
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Medieval 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 1 Minutes 41 Secs. 
19. Deo gracias by Gilles Binchois
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; Burgundy, France 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 0 Minutes 34 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
20. Adieu mes tres belles amours by Gilles Binchois
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; Burgundy, France 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 4 Minutes 5 Secs. 
Language: French 
21. Ave regina celorum by Walter Frye
Conductor:  Dominique Vellard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gilles Binchois Ensemble
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; England 
Date of Recording: 12/1989 
Venue:  Amsoldingen, Switzerland 
Length: 2 Minutes 39 Secs. 
Language: Latin 

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