Lancashire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Andrew Palmer
Group Editor
6:31 AM 22nd July 2023

Classical Music: Machaut The Fount Of Grace

Guillaume de Machaut The fount of grace

Donnez, signeurs; Tu qui gregem / Plange regni / Apprehende arma; Tant doucement me sens emprisonnez (2vv); Felix virgo / Inviolata genitrix / Ad te suspiramus; He! Dame de valour; Tres douce dame
Je ne cesse de prier; Christe qui lux / Veni creator spiritus / Tribulatio proxima est; En mon cuer a un descort; Tant doucement.

The Orlando Consort
Hyperion CDA68417

There’s something hypnotic about the Orlando Consort. The four pure voices of these gentlemen performing music from France’s most famous poet-composer of the fourteenth century are captivating.

The ‘fount of grace’ of the title is the Virgin Mary, to whom Machaut addresses his appeals for mercy during a turbulent period in France’s history.
As Jacques Boogaart writes in his excellent notes, "This album offers an almost complete survey of the various aspects of Machaut’s art: his idiosyncratic explanation in music of an article of faith and his trust in the Virgin’s clemency, his intense prayers for peace in impressive motets, and his praise of courtly love in pleasant and imaginative songs."

And thanks to the Orlando Consort, the lines of these melodies are caressed to perfection through excellent intonation and balance. Matthew Venner’s elegant countertenor is supported by equally refined tenors Mark Dobell and Angus Smith, as well as Donald Grieg’s lovely baritone, all sung with a beauty that gives the listener an insight into the era in which they were written. Boogaart describes them as peepholes, giving us a glimpse of the harsh reality of the times in which Marchaut lived, including the disasters that befell France during his lifetime.

A fascinating survey from a quartet that consistently performs with ease to high standards—nothing sounds complicated. The Consort evocatively captures the character of each composition with lovely textures and phrasing, causing the listener to linger as the fine, expressive singing breathes a freshness into music that is not often heard.