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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