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Penultimate Broadcast: RTE's Bernard Clarke on The Red Book of Ossory/Anakronos

July 8, 2020 | By Creative Consultants for the Arts

Bernard Clarke's penultimate broadcast on THE RED BOOK OF OSSORY BY ANAKRONOS from his July 8 RTE show "In the Blue of the Night"

Part 3 

Scroll ahead to 1:51.24

Anakronos The Red Book of Ossory

Verum Est

Caitriona O’Leary’s new ensemble Anakronos have a new album coming out on July 10th, on Heresy Records: The Red Book of Ossory

One of the reasons for the the international fame of the Red Book is the collection of 60 Latin lyrics that make up the final folios, all but 13 of which were composed by the Bishop Ledred.

Many of the songs honour the Virgin Mary, and Ledred seems to have intended them to be sung at the great festivals and on other occasions.

Dark and furious their propaganda damned all pagans and enemies and sinners.

Caitriona O’Leary has taken these texts, sought out musics of the period and beyond and teased out what she’s found.

Another composer who has inspired Anakronos is Jacopo de Bologna , who worked at the court in Milan, Italy; which around 1400 was still dominated by French music.

But almost nothing is known about Jacopo’s life, but he was probably a lay man associated with the court. He probably spent some time in Verona; one might fimagine that it was his music to which Romeo and Juliet danced. Only 34 poetic-musical compositions by Jacopo have survived. Here’s something of him from two dofferent approaches.

Jacopo de Bologna  Giunge'l bel tempo

Michelle L. O'Connor (vielle, fiddle) & Shira Kammen (vielle, fiddle)

Jacopo da Bologna: Italian Madrigals of the 14th Century

Jacopo de Bologna  Non al suo amante (madrigal)

Ensemble Project Ars Nova

Just how or why Jacopo served as a model for Consendit Salamon Ventrale Ferculum on Anakronos’ The Red Book of Ossory I honestly do not know. Once again this sounds more closely linked to Islam, maybe Arabic traditional music than anything in these Christian courts.

One thing though: this is not music that you listen to while folding your laundry, or washing the dishes. It is too powerful for that; you stop doing what you’re doing and you’re pulled into the world of the music. You may not be familiar with that world, but regardless, you will feel it in the music.

The Red Book of Ossory

Consendit Salamon Ventrale Ferculum 4’04

Another intriguing composer ghost Caitriona O’Leary draws on is Matteo da Perugia, a largely neglected composer of the years around 1400.

Italian, he wrote largely in the French manner, even when setting Italian texts; so neither national tradition adopts him today.

Here stands though as a composer of highly complex works in the Ars Subtilior style. And although Matteo’s day-job was as choirmaster, at the then building site as it were, of Milan Cathedral (the largest cathedral in Europe then? I think) he is largely represented in the manuscript as a composer of secular songs. It seems also that the texts, often of despair at the loss or the rejection of a lover were by the composer himself. His musical style is rhythmically very complex and experimental and at one time thought to be even unperformable

Matteo da Perugia La Greygnour Bien  Early Music Consort of London/ David Munrow (Virgin)

Pieces by Matteo da Perugia have often been anthologised, just like David Munrow (The Art of Courtly Love) whom we just heard in 1972 recorded the extraordinary Le greygnour bien and Andray soulet. Munrow presented these just for instruments, perhaps thinking the upper line un-vocal? I don’t know, it’s impossible now to tell, but Stravinsky’s Agon comes to mind here.

Matteo da Perugia Andray soulet Early Music Consort of London/ David Munrow (Virgin)

The Red Book of Ossory

The Flight of Dame Alice Kyteler 2’25

I don’t know if Anakronos got the instrumental hint from Munrow, but their approach is to use instruments liberally and occasionally to let rip. This won’t be to everyone’s taste but it’s certainly to mine.

That’s another thing: Caitriona O’Leary’s voice is flexible, versatile and very wide-ranging in its expressive quality. She clearly shows a real understanding of the needs of this music. Let’s face it, it’s taken a couple of generations for performers to get a handle on the Ars Subtilior composers’ but it’s finally happening. And to think she’s taken from that to bring it into this world is absolutely extraordinary.

The Red Book of Ossory

Da, Da Nobis Nunc

Wonderful music, fascinatingly presented. 




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