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In the current, emerging issue concerning mediaeval  music and the manner of reproducing  it with relative accuracy, there exist diverse  currents that shed new light, each time perhaps  going a bit further in the force of expression  and communication. As for Arcana and its  action, we strongly refute the generally accepted  idea whereby the Middle Ages are viewed  as a coarse, obscure era. To the contrary, all  the facets of joy, thought, meditation, distress  and existential fears cohabited in a way that  was both reasoned and informal. We are therefore  not attracted by the tourist-folklore side  of debauchery and groaning board put forward  by some as being authentic, but which adds  even more to the obscurantist option : street  music is not our ‘thing’. But the subtle, elegant  and infectious freshness of LA REVERDIE  succeeded in bringing the existence of gracious,  refined circles to light. With MALA PUNICA,  creativity is extreme, so open, one might say,  that we approach the limits of fiction music.  On the other hand, the FERRARA ENSEMBLE  devotes itself to rarefied atmospheres on a slow,  inner rhythm, establishing the closest contact  with the listener’s intimate perceptions. 

And here is a fourth ensemble joining Arcana  to push back the boundaries of our knowledge  ever farther and intensify the denseness  of our participation. Austerity and dramatisation  are the salient traits of DIALOGOS, in its  formation for men’s voices as heard on this  disc (there also being a group for women’s  voices but which never mixes with its male  homonym). KATARINA LIVLJANIÆ,a  Croa-tian singer and musicologist and  lecturer at the Sorbonne, is the link. It is she  who brings together and moulds young singers  from diver-se horizons, in order to explore, in  a new way, the mediaeval repertoires from  round the Me-diterranean. And the originality  lies precisely in this dramatic and  occasionally terrifying approach, which  goes well beyond what we are accustomed  to. 

War, music and liturgy at Monte Cassino, one  of the most prestigious European sites in the  Middle Ages. Now the word ‘barbarian’ is constantly  to be found in the writings of the Cassinian  chroniclers, yet, every time it takes on  another meaning. The Barbarians were the  ‘Others’ in that strange history which is always  written by the victors. The present programme  evokes the bloodiest episodes of the Bible and  the history of Monte Cassino. Here, one hears  the opposition between the ancient Beneventan  liturgy (linked to the Lombard presence in  Southern Italy and considered ‘barbarian’ by  the Roman popes), Greek singing and finally  that which would become the Gregorian tradition.  An ‘excommunication’ dispenses maledictions  of extraordinary violence, with rejection  and hatred. An underlying element, which is  generally quite well concealed, is now brought  out: the malicious refusal of all that is different,  a substitute for fear. 

These violent curses, coupled with interdictions,  which forbid from entering the church  those not worthy of being there, were, moreover,  of short duration. They contrast singularly  with the benedictions, which have come down  through the centuries and whose smooth, benevolent  tone is much more familiar to us.

MICHEL BERNSTEIN  Translated by John Tyler Tuttle


CHOC Monde de la Musique award R 10Classica award Diapason Or award 5 Goldberg award JOKER CRESCENDO (plus récent) award