Rogers Covey-Crump, John Potter, Christopher O'Gorman
Musicologists have always known that the Conductus, the pan-European music that evolved around the time of Perotin, was composed in two sorts of notation. One is familiar and relatively straight-forward: measured music as we still understand it; the other is mysterious and elusive, an expressive rhetorical process creating a synthesis of music and poetry. Until Southampton University's Cantum Pulcriorem Invenire research project: 13th Century Music & Poetry (led by Professor Mark Everist and funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council) no one had satisfactorily worked out how to sing polyphony without metrical rhythm. The three medieval tenors who have come together for this project have been re-inventing Conductus for three years, guided by the Southampton musicological team, and the unique results can be heard on three CDs, the first two of which are now available from Hyperion.
The first exploratory UK performances (launched at the York Early Music Festival in 2012) were with John Potter and Christopher Oâ€™Gorman, reflecting the substantial core repertoire of two-voice music. With Rogers Covey-Crump completing the line-up for the increasing number of three-voice pieces, the three tenor version was launched in England and Germany in 2013; from 2014 the Conductus programmes will be available in either two or three voice versions. These work best in a one hour straight through format, but can also be performed as a conventional concert with interval. The shorter format can also be accompanied by a specially commissioned film by Michael Lynch.
This remarkable music - with its poetry describing life and death in medieval Europe, sensual devotion to the Virgin Mary contrasted with robust broadsides against priestly corruption - can now be heard for the first time in 800 years as the musical and literary hybrid phenomenon its creators intended it to be.
The first CD, Conductus 1 (released in 2012) was described by BBC Music Magazine as 'deeply moving and aesthetically breath-taking as the most complex, heart-on-sleeve music.'
International Record Review commented that 'Ear-opening performances â€¦ allow the fragrance of the words to irradiate the rhythm and the melodic lines...'
Gramophone observed that 'John Potter is one of the most experienced singers in the world for this kind of music and he is magically balanced by the glorious voice of the much younger Christopher O'Gorman. For the three-voice pieces the still impeccable Rogers Covey-Crump joins them ... These are seriously classy performances.'
Of the 3 tenors' German debut, Rheinpfalz Zeitung said 'Diese Stimmen! Drei Weltklasse-TenÃ¶re des beginnenden 21 Jahrhunderts...'
There is more press comment on the Hyperion Conductus page, and you can hear extracts from a couple of tracks from Conductus 1 here:
...and two clips from Conductus 2:
and (especially if hocketing is your thing), the last strophe of
photos: Paul Arthur