Guillaume de Machaut: Motets

The Hilliard Ensemble

CD18,90 out of print
Featured Artists Recorded

November 2001, Propstei St. Gerold

Original Release Date


  • 1De souspirant cuer M.2
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 2Fine Amour qui me vint navrer M.3
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 3Puis que la douce rousée M.4
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 4Qui plus aimme plus endure M.5
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 5Lasse! je sui en aventure M.7
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 6Ha! Fortune M.8
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 7O livoris feritas M.9
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 8Helas! où sera pris confors M.10
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 9Fins cuers dous M.11
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 10Eins que ma dame d'onnur M.13
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 11Faus Samblant m'a deceü M.14
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 12Se j'aim mon loyal ami M.16
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 13Bone pastor Guillerme M.18
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 14Diligenter inquiramus M.19
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 15Biauté parée de valour M.20
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 16Veni creator spiritus M.21
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 17Plange regni respublica M.22
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
  • 18Inviolata genitrix M.23
    (Traditional, Guillaume de Machaut)
Grammy Nomination 2005
Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Bestenliste 2/2004
Fono Forum, Empfehlung des Monats
Gramophone, Editor’s Choice
This is a landmark recording and a courageous venture. It is probably the first devoted to Machaut’s motets, containing no fewer than 18 of the 23 that survive. It is certainly the first to present them in the order in which Machaut himself presented them in his own manuscripts. And the performances are of a truly mandarin refinement. Here are The Hilliard Ensemble with goodness knows how many combined years of experience performing this kind of music in public; they are not just on the top of their form but also constantly showing the fruits of that experience.
David Fallows, Gramophone
Recordings of the Mass are infrequent, and albums drawn from other corners of Machoaut’s copious output are rarer still. The Hilliard Ensemble helps to redress that neglect with a new selection of 18 motets, secular and sacred songs, in French and Latin. … The five Hilliard singer render these pieces beautifully, in the smoothly blended sound that has become the ensemble’s trademark. … The conjecture the Hilliard singers provide has less to do with historical re-creation than with bringing this marriage of text and music to life for listeners attuned to modern notions of tone. As it happens, the transposition works extremely well.
Allan Kozinn, The New York Times
The Hilliard allow their performances to unfold at their own, sometimes leisurely, pace; the singer’s tone is wonderfully even and the dissonances are allowed to pass by naturally without special emphasis. Every number here has the same unflashy polish, and it is not surprising that this disc should have been released to celebrate the Hilliard’s 30th anniversary this year. These are performances full of insights derived from long experience of singing such elusive music, yet ones that wear experience and musical scholarship lightly. The decisions about the way in which the music should be realised and the texts delivered, always vital considerations when dealing with the works of this period, are made without fuss and seem utterly natural. It is a marvellous survey.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian
If I tell you that my favourite disc of recent months contains over an hour’s worth of three-minute bursts of the same kind of music, seven centuries old and built on principles in no way related to anything else in our repertory experience, you may want to change stations…but wait! Know first that the disc is on ECM, one of the more trustworthy of surviving classical labels, and that the performers are the Hilliard Ensemble, that lively and questing group – countertenors, tenors, baritone – whose lust for stylistic exploration is apparently boundless. here they sing a collection of motets by the fourteenth-century poet, philosopher, musician and churchman Guillaume de Machaut, music whose strange, distant beauty is much enhanced by the typical ECM treatment. …
We cannot, of course, hear this music with fourteenth-century ears, but the weight of history can be a marvellous enablement for discovering a whole new level of freshness in this music. Is it so wrong to hear Arvo Pärt or Bartók or Charles Ives in the cross-references and false cadences in Machaut? It would be equally wrong to hear this music as any kind of primitive, to miss the high level of poetic daring in the textual or musical crossovers, the sheer beauty in the sinuous melodic lines. This is a hypnotic, stupendous disc.
Alan Rich, LA Weekly
The music’s florid and rhythmically complex contrapuntal lines, each setting different words, may lack the immediate appeal of the Mass, but the members of the Hilliard Ensemble have complete affinity with its style and the vocal virtuosity to convey Machaut’s deeply felt emotions with a conviction and intensity that bring out the music’s true greatness.
Elizabeth Roche, Daily Telegraph
Voici les cinq Britanniques tout occupés à sublimer les Motets de Guillaume de Machaut. Lisibilité absolue, expressivité poussée à l’extrême : grâce aux voix irréelles des Hilliard, la science des entrelacs, l’alchimie mélodique du génial compositeur-poète bouleverse comme jamais.
Tribune de Genève
Die isorhythmischen Motetten Guillaume de Machauts verkörpern die höchste Kunst mittelalterlicher Mehrstimmigkeit. ... Ein faszinierendes Mit- und Nebeneinander von verschiedenen Sujets und musikalischen Linien, das zu aufmerksamen Hinhören zwingt. Das Hilliard-Ensemble führt das fragile Gebilde aus strenger Linearität und emotionalem Ausdruck zu betörender Wirkung. Vom Geflecht der fünf Männerstimmen, die sich klanglich aneinander reiben, ohne je den übergeordneten strukturellen Atem aus den Augen zu verlieren, vermag man sich nur schwer zu lösen.
Christoph Ballmer, Neue Zürcher Zeitung
Die 18 hier eingespielten Werke lassen Guillaumes künstlerische Physiognomie deutlich zu Tage treten: Sie zeichnen das Portrait eines sensiblen, feinnervigen Lyrikers, dem es gelingt, innerhalb der hochartifiziellen isorhythmischen Strukturen eine Klangsprache von zarter Expressivität erblühen zu lassen. ... Dass die Aufnahme der meist zäsurarm voranwiegenden Motetten eine ganz eigentümliche, sinnlich-reizvolle Wirkung entfalten kann, liegt nicht zuletzt auch an den exzellenten Hilliards, die die unverkennbare Klanglust und fremdartig wirkende Dissonanzfreude der Musik mit ihrem typischen Ensemblesound genüsslich auskosten.
Marcus Stäbler, Fono Forum
The release of their recording of Guillaume de Machaut marks the 30th anniversary of the Hilliard Ensemble. The group was founded early in 1974 and gave its first concert at All Souls’ Church in London with a line-up that already included the distinctive countertenor of David James, which continues to define its signature sound. Although the Hilliard personnel expands with guest musicians to meet the needs of specific projects (e.g. the addition of second countertenor David Gould here, or soprano Monika Mauch on the acclaimed “Morimur” and “Ricercar” discs), the core unit of James/Covey-Crump/Jones has been in place since the beginning of the 1990s, and musical associations between the singers, in other contexts, go back much further. Tenor Steven Harrold, the most recent inductee, has been a member of the group since 1998.

Music of Guillaume de Machaut (ca. 1300-1377) has been in the Hilliard’s repertoire for decades, and in the 1980s the group recorded his Messe de Notre Dame for Hyperion, in a version deemed definitive by many critics. The current recording of the Machaut Motets is based upon a new edition prepared by long-time Hilliard Ensemble associate and musicologist Nicky Losseff. In her detailed liner note she describes the Motets as “replete with hidden meanings, multiple commentaries and complex musical procedures…Yet it is Machaut’s ability to pierce the heart, not his cleverness, that can overwhelm the listener on an emotional level.”

Machaut is revered by contemporary musicians for his experimental daring (Hilliard baritone Gordon Jones speaks of the “almost unbelievable virtuosity” of the Motets), for his melismatic melody and the rhythmic elasticity of his pieces. The musical scope of his work marked a great compositional leap forward, and it has become commonplace to consider him an ‘avant-garde’ composer of his time… He was, clearly, an independent thinker, and his “freely fantasized art” was strictly tied to neither church nor court, though he wrote for both. A composer of genius, he stands as one of the first great figures of Western music.

As a poet, too, Machaut achieved great renown. It is only recently however that scholars have begun to understand the spiritual allegory implicit in Machaut’s love poetry. This cycle of motets “carries potent religious implications, outlining allegorically nothing less than the steps of a religious journey.” Machaut’s texts have an affinity with the “mystic literature of Richard Rolle, Henry Suso and Baldwin of Ford – writers for whom earthly concepts of love were juxtaposed with the spiritual to create language of great emotional force. Thus, Machaut’s fervent intellectual conception of courtly love is allied to the mystics’ equally passionate yet highly structured portrayals of endless longing for Christ.”

Whether one chooses to interpret the texts from a sacred or secular perspective there can be no denying that the marriage of words and music in Machaut is always extraordinarily graceful.

The Machaut Motets is the 20th album project with the Hilliard Ensemble on ECM New Series. Most recently heard on Tigran Mansurian’s “Monodia”, the group’s music has addressed an extraordinary range of styles and periods over the course of almost two decades with ECM.

One of the most outstanding vocal chamber groups in the world today, the Hilliard Ensemble’s reputation in the fields of both early and new music is unsurpassed; no other vocal group has addressed the “old” and the “new” so persuasively for so long. The group has been associated with ECM since 1987, Arvo Pärt's "Arbos" signalling also the beginning of a long association with the Estonian composer (including the discs “Passio”, “Miserere” and “Litany”).

Other Hilliard recordings for the New Series include music of Victoria and Palestrina ("In Paradisum"), Gesualdo ("Tenebrae"), Lassus, Walter Frye, Thomas Tallis ("The Lamentations of Jeremiah"), "Codex Specialnik" (Josquin Desprez, Petrus de Grudencz, Johannes Touront, John Plummer etc.), "A Hilliard Songbook“ (Barry Guy, Morton Feldman, Ivan Moody, James MacMillan, Veljo Tormis, Arvo Pärt, Joanne Metcalf etc.). The Ensemble’s 1993 collaboration with improvising saxophonist Jan Garbarek, "Officium", proved to be enormously successful; the Garbarek/Hilliard combination issued a second record, "Mnemosyne" in 1999, and continues to tour widely.

In 2001, the Hilliard Ensemble’s collaboration with Christoph Poppen on “Morimur”, based on the Bach research of Prof. Helga Thoene, intrigued many thousands of listeners around the world. The Poppen/Hilliard association continued with “Ricercar”, released 2003, exploring musical and spiritual affinities between Bach and Webern.