Friday, 13 October 2017

Josquin & Victoria - Secret History - Potter et al

Rating: 2/5

Not for me

You don't look to a John Potter recording for conventionality, and we certainly don't get it here.  I admire Potter's originality of approach and I like many of his previous recordings, but I'm afraid this just doesn’t work for me.

Potter has taken some fine works of polyphony, chiefly by two of its truly great composers, Josquin and Victoria, and has recorded them as solo-voice or duet pieces accompanied by differnt vihuelas and in some cases featuring a viola da gamba.  The performances themselves are excellent; Potter is a wonderful countertenor, Anna Maria Friman matches him perfectly in the duets and the instrumentalists are all superb – including the wonderful Hille Perl.  It's excellent musicianship, but…

I simply don't think that the music is suitable for this treatment.  A great part (perhaps the whole part) of polyphony is the interplay of human voices of largely equal importance.  Without this it loses almost all its beauty and emotional impact for me.  For example, the disc opens with Jean Mouton's sublime motet Nesciens Mater, whose real appeal is the exquisite, shifting harmonies and polyphonic lines which, when sung by a good choir, create a stunning sense of peace, beauty and spirituality.  One sung line and a vihuela accompaniment, however well done, doesn't come close to this and I'm afraid I felt the same about the whole of the disc.  It's an interesting experiment, I suppose, but to me it just misses most of the point of the music and I find it a bit dull.

I'm sorry to be so critical of the work of such fine musicians; plainly others like Nick Ross feel very differently about it and love the effect, but personally I can't recommend this

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