Released on 8 July 2006
With Michael Chance (countertenor)
This is the most important disc of Agricola’s secular music currently available, including as it does all five of his textless settings of Hayne van Ghizeghem’s De tous biens plaine, the three of Binchois’ Comme femme desconfortée and three of the four based on Ockeghem’s Dung aultre amer. Also here are four texted chansons sung by counter-tenor Michael Chance, and, intriguingly, two pieces from Fabrice Fitch’s own multi-movement cycle agricologies, a work commissioned by Fretwork and the Kreuzer String Quartet to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Agricola’s death.
Most impressive of all, to my mind, are the chansons, which evince a gift for elevated lyricism scarcely less impressive than that of Ockeghem. Particularly striking are the long Je nay deuil, a song of dolorous beauty, and Vostre hault bruit, a graciously wrought love song. Chance sings all four with consummate artistry born of long experience in this kind of repertoire. The instrumental cantus firmus pieces are notable for their rhythmic exuberance and complex counterpoint, the former a particular feature of those based on Comme femme. Fitch’s fascinating take on the same piece maintains the spirit but not the letter, being concerned more with texture than counterpoint. The most extended of the instrumental works is the freely composed Pater meus agricola est, its fantasia-like progress developing from the grave, sustained opening through several clearly defined sections. Fretwork’s richly conceived, flexible and beautifully balanced performances are enhanced by first-rate sound and excellent presentation.
Brian Robbins, Goldberg Magazine
Catalogue number: HMU 907421