A Worcester Ladymass
Anna Maria Friman (Soprano), Linn Andrea Fuglseth (Soprano) and Torunn Østrem Ossum (Soprano)
Recorded at Propstei St. Gerold, Austria (February, 2010) – Total Time: 54’54
ECM NEW SERIES 2166 – B0015298-02 – Liner notes in English, Texts in Latin
A Worcester Ladymass is a votive mass to the Virgin Mary reconstructed from 13-th century codice fragments found at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary’s in Worcester, England. They survived the purges of Henry VIII because they were used as binding material in other codices. As not enough parts survived to complete a medieval mass, Gavin Bryars, a long-time supporter of The Trio Mediaeval, composed the music for the “Credo” and “Benedicamus Domino” in 2008. Very little medieval English music survives. This find shows the importance that polyphonic music would have been to the monks at the abbey in breaking up the monotony of plainchant during the church year.
The Trio’s music editor, Nicky Losseff, used the framework of a medieval mass to assemble the most appropriate fragments and Bryars’ additions. As Anna Maria Friman points out in the liner notes, we have no way of knowing what constituted a “medieval sound”. This allows leeway for a certain amount of contemporary interpretation at which, with Bryars contributions, the work succeeds admirably.
Most of the twenty parts (and tracks) are polyphonic while a couple are in plainchant. Conducti and motets replace the spoken sections of the Mass. Apart from the melody chimes used in “Benedicta/Virgo Dei genitrix” and the “Agnus Dei” (no credit given to the performer) all parts are sung a cappella. The voices of the three sopranos— Anna Maria Friman, Linn Andrea Fugseth and Torunn Østrem Ossum—are nothing less than sublime. Their perfect intonation, well-rounded phrasing, absence of vibrato and youthful freshness invoke an ethereal sound that resonates with conviction and sanctity in the church of Propstei St. Gerold in Austria. Each voice has its distinctive timbre, and all sections of the mass are colourfully and imaginatively realized. Bryars’ additions blend well with the 13th century reconstruction while invoking a subtle, and slightly contemporary atmosphere. The soaring “alleluia” at the close of Bryars’ “Benedicamus Domino” is as close to musical heaven as one can imagine. Sound engineering by Peter Laenger is impeccable.
This is the fifth recording of the Oslo group on the “ECM New Series”, and their first in four years. The Trio just completed a tour of four North American cities (stopping in Toronto but not Montreal), and has several dates coming up in Europe.
Earl Arthur Love