Anonymous 4

Biography

Active: 1986 - ; Hungary
The female vocal quartet called Anonymous 4 has become one of the most popular and respected small vocal groups specializing in early music. The group has attained the elusive combination of popularity and respect through its unique blend of creativity and scholarly/historical depth.

The name "Anonymous 4" comes from a scholarly convention for designating anonymous medieval writers and scribes with numbers; working with a particular
Read more manuscript by the scribe known as Anonymous 4, they found it an ideal name for their new quartet. The group was formed in 1986. Its purpose was to experiment with the sound of medieval music (both chant and polyphony) as sung by higher voices. Its four members are all singers of considerable beauty of tone, range, and flexibility, but all of them had nontraditional backgrounds to one extent or another. Marsha Genensky, originally a folk singer, earned an M.A. in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania. She is an expert in traditional American shape-note singing, and experimented with different vocal techniques for the different strains of British-American folk song. Susan Hellauer, a native of New York City, was a trumpeter with a B.A. in music from Queens College. She had always been fascinated by vocal music of the medieval and Renaissance eras, leading her to become a singer and to earn advanced musicology degrees at Queens College and Columbia University. Jacqueline Horner, of Belfast, Northern Ireland, is the only non-American in the group. She attended Queen's University, earning a B.A. with joint honors in music and English. In London, she studied performance practice at City University and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Like many other medieval-oriented performers, she is interested in both early and modern music, and has performed with Pierre Boulez's Ensemble InterContemporain, the Ensemble for Early Music, Ensemble Moderne, and Continuum. She moved to New York, which she calls her "favorite city in the universe." Johanna Maria Rose has a broad background in several of the arts. She earned an M.A. in Early Music Performance at Sarah Lawrence College.

Anonymous 4 is renowned for the depth of its scholarship. Hellauer does the primary music research, and when needed prepares the group's repertory by transcribing it into modern notation from original sources. Genensky and Rose are in charge of language research and study of literary sources, and adapting readings for their concerts. The teamwork results in concerts that avoid presenting the music in a vacuum. Anonymous 4's programs are innovative and entertaining, relating the music to its time and milieu through narrative and poetry interwoven with the music. Sometimes they fill out groups of chants or fragmentary pieces of polyphony with music of their own composition in order to make convincing wholes, but the new music they create is done accurately enough to blend seamlessly with the medieval originals.

Beyond such historical considerations, the group's astonishingly beautiful and pure vocal blend has made it one of the leading acts in classical music recording. Despite being involved in what may seem a narrowly specialized academic area of music, they have sold about a million copies of their recordings on the Harmonia Mundi Label. Among these were On Yoolis Night, a medieval Christmas album that won the prestigious French Diapason d'Or award. Their first disc, An English Ladymass, was CD Review's Classical Early Music Disc of the Year, and their fourth, The Lily and the Lamb, was Classic CD's Disc of the Year for 1996. Tower Music reported that its 11,000 Virgins disc of music by Hildegard von Bingen was one of the top 100 Independent Label releases in 1997-1998. In 2003 the group turned to early American religious traditions with its American Angels album. Read less

Composer: Traditional

Browse 1-2 of 2 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    On Yoolis Night  / Anonymous 4
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 2927099 Release Date: 11/08/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Traditional
    Performer:  Johanna Rose,  Marsha Genensky,  Ruth Cunningham,  Susan Hellauer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Anonymous 4
    CD: $14.99
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  • 2.
    Wolcum Yule / Andrew Lawrence-king, Anonymous 4
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 2927325 Release Date: 11/08/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Traditional,  Richard Rodney Bennett,  Peter Maxwell Davies  ... 
    Performer:  Jacqueline Horner,  Johanna Rose,  Susan Hellauer,  Marsha Genensky  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Anonymous 4
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  • 3.
    The Cherry Tree / Anonymous 4
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 807453 Release Date: 09/14/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Traditional,  William Knapp,  William Billings
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Anonymous 4
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    On sale! $21.98
    SuperAudio CD: $19.99
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  • 4.
    Gloryland / Anonymous 4
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 907400 Release Date: 09/12/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Traditional,  Sarah Lancaster,  William Walker,  James C. Moore  ... 
    Performer:  Mike Marshall,  Darol Anger,  Marsha Genensky,  Susan Hellauer  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Anonymous 4
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    CD: $19.99
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  • 5.
    Noel - Carols & Chants For Christmas / Anonymous 4
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 2907411 Release Date: 10/11/2005   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Anonymous,  John Tavener,  Benjamin Britten,  Traditional  ... 
    Performer:  Johanna Rose,  Susan Hellauer,  Marsha Genensky,  Ruth Cunningham  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Anonymous 4
    On sale! $61.98
    CD: $55.49
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  • 6.
    American Angels / Anonymous 4
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 907326 Release Date: 02/10/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Moore,  William Walker,  William Bradbury,  Justin Morgan  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Anonymous 4
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    On sale! $21.98
    CD: $19.99
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  • 7.
    Millennium Of Music Vol 2 - Alleluia This Sweete Songe
    Label: Valley Entertainment Classics   Catalog: 15024 Release Date: 06/03/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Anonymous,  Traditional,  Thomas Tallis  ... 
    Conductor:  William Christie,  Paul Hillier,  Dominique Vellard,  Alfred Deller  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Arts Florissants,  Theatre of Voices,  Anonymous 4  ... 
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 8.
    On Yoolis Night - Medieval Carols & Motets / Anonymous 4
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 907099 Release Date: 09/01/1993   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Traditional
    Performer:  Johanna Rose,  Susan Hellauer,  Marsha Genensky,  Ruth Cunningham
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Anonymous 4
    On sale! $21.98
    CD: $19.99
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