by Daniel Hathaway
With the rise of Dante, Petrarch, Boccacio, Chaucer and the celebrated poet-musician Guillaume de Machaut, the fourteenth century was a heady era for literature in Europe. Schola Antiqua of Chicago under the direction of Michael Anderson treated the audience at St. John’s Cathedral on Friday evening, April 26, to a captivating survey of Machaut’s music and poetry. The program included his complete Mass of Our Lady interleaved with two of his twenty-three extant motets and five examples of his numerous secular songs.
Anderson, a musicologist at the Eastman School of Music who assumed the directorship of the 13-year-old ensemble in 2008, prefaced the concert with an audience-friendly introduction to Machaut’s musical style, demonstrating how the composer created tension and release and giving examples of Machaut’s spiky, double-leading-tone cadences. That probably only partly prepared the listeners for Machaut’s sound-world with its stark open fifths, sudden bursts of lush harmony and flights of hocket — the ricocheting of short notes back and forth between voices imitating hiccups that Machaut and his contemporaries got a kick out of incorporating into sacred pieces. [Read more…]