The Island of St. Hylarion
Music of Cyprus, 1413-1422: Michael Collver, countertenor, corno muto; John Fleagle, tenor, harp; Shira Kammen, vielle; Laurie Monahan, mezzosoprano; Crawford Young, lute; with guests Peter Becker, Karen Clark-Young, Randall Cook, Steven Lundhal, Margaret Raines.
This is without a doubt the best recording of the Cypriot-French music to date.
--Historical Performance: The Journal of Early Music America
Virtually all of the music in this recording comes from one of the most neglected but fascinating sources of late Medieval music, the richly copied manuscript J.II.9 of the Biblioteca Nazionale in Turin, written between 1413 and 1422 in Cyprus. This manuscript is the sole witness to a brief but extraordinary flowering of western art music in Cyprus at the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth century.
The Cyprus codex begins with a fascicle of plainsong, including several mass cycles as well as offices for St. Hylarion and St. Anne, both of whom are particularly venerated in Cyprus. Then follow a series of polyphonic glorias and credos, several of which are arranged in pairs, a cantus firmus mass lacking the agnus dei (added by a later scribe), 41 isorhythmic motets, 102 ballades, 43 virelais, and 21 rondeaux. The texts of the secular works and eight of the motets are French and reveal familiarity with the poetry of Machaut and his contemporaries. The rest of the music uses latin texts, including a thinly veiled imitation of a motet text by Philippe de Vitry. All the works are anonymous and unique to this codex which stands as one of the few medieval manuscripts that solely represents the musical output of a single court and chapel. In spite of the uniqueness of this repertory it has been neglected by scholars and performers. It is seldom glamorous to deal with anonymous works, and yet the artists responsible for this music were people of uncommon imagination and power. One among them produced a cycle of motets related to the great "O" antiphons of the week before Christmas ending with the vigil motet, "O sacra virgo virginum/Tu nati nata suscipe", and the Christmas motet, "Hodie Puer nascitur/Homo mortalis firmiter". This cycle is clearly a single unit and rivals in scope anything being composed in Europe at the time.
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