“L’Homme Arme” showcases Renaissance masters

This is a release I’ve long been waiting for. In the early Renaissance, the Burgundian folk song L’Homme Armé (The Armed Man) was used by many composers of the period. This album does what I’ve always wanted to do — bring together several of those settings to compare side-by-side.

It’s an album of great beauty and surprising variety. The Studio de music ancienne de Montreal under Andrew McAnerney’s able direction, sing with clarity and subtle expression. The room ambiance is spacious, letting the voices expand, blending in glorious resonance.

The album begins with the chanson itself, followed by a version by Robert Morton. It continues with various mass movements and motets. Antoine Busnois, Guillaume Dufay, Johannes Ockeghem, and Josquin des Pres are all represented with movements from their respective Missa L’Homme Armés.

And in each case, the tune is so deeply embedded in the polyphony that I was hard-pressed to hear it. Yet each composer uses it in a different way.

Also included are a variety of motets and other settings of the L’Homme Armé tunes. John Dunstable, Alexandre Agricola, and Gilles Binchois fall into this grouping.

If you’re familiar with Renaissance music, then you’ve run across L’Homme Armé motets and masses before. But hearing a collection of them is revelatory. The tune yields up endless variety in the hands of these masters.

Highly recommended.

 L’Homme Armé: La Cour de Gourgogne et la musique
Studio de music ancienne de Montreal; Andrew McAnerney, director
ATMA Classique ACD2 2807

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