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The four ladies of Anonymous 4 here present a thematic cycle of pieces from the Las Huelgas Codex, ordered into the various offices of a typical monastic day and are offered in honour of the Virgin Mary. If that seems like a gruelling prospect of ear-splitting shrillness (as I thought it might), there needn’t be any fear as the singers cultivate a generally steady, mellow and devotional tone, and the differing textures - ranging from monophonic plainchant to the complex interweaving of four part conductus and motets - ensure musical variety. The pieces represent a conspectus of liturgical forms prevalent in the 13th century. Variety and vitality are also brought about by contrasts of rhythm, such as the rippling effects in the Ave maris stella.
The ensemble’s name is apt, for the music is performed in the service of the ideas it expresses - personality doesn’t intrude despite ...
Secret Voices - Music from Las Huelgas