Guillaume de Machaut’s ‘Messe de Nostre Dame’, the first complete mass setting to have been composed, continues to speak to the imagination. At 650 years of age, the work breathes perfection, the listener is continually amazed by the composer’s rhythmic inventiveness, alternating moments of complete openness and greater diffusion. The singing here has the purity of fine hair, exactly what we would expect from the Orlando Consort. The other wonderful thing about this mass is that it is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for composers.
One example is Tarik O’Regan’s ‘Scattered Rhymes’ in which medieval and contemporary elements are combined to form a splendid, timeless whole. O’Regan chose as his text a number of sonnets from Petrarch’s greatest work, the ‘Canzionere’, interspersed with verses from an old English collection of anonymous love poems. The combination of the Orlando Consort with Petrarch’s text and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, which interprets the anonymous verses, is astonishing. Old and new, grand and earthy alternate in a beautiful programme. Machaut’s masterwork is the illuminating centrepiece with interesting contributions from Gavin Bryars’ ‘Super flumina’ and Guillaume Dufay’s ‘Ave Regina celorum’. If you missed the recent performance of ‘Scattered Rhymes’ at de Deoelen, then this is your chance to catch up!