All but one piece of music on this album can be found in the early fifteenth-century Torino Codex (Torino, Biblioteca Nazionale MS J.II.9), an anonymous source of music that remains one of the few windows into Western music of that period. Although it is the largest musical source in the French tradition between the Ars nova manuscripts of the fourteenth century and the Franco-Burgundian manuscripts of the late fifteenth century, the music of the Torino Codex has attracted comparatively little attention from performing ensembles and scholars, no doubt stemming from the fact that almost all of the pieces are both anonymous and lacking concordances with other known sources.
The music of the Torino Codex appears to have originated on the island of Cyprus within the court of King Janus I of the ruling Lusignan family. In 1433, this manuscript seems to have accompanied Anne of Cyprus as part of the dowry in her marriage to Louis of Savoy. Ranging from sacred plainchant and polyphony to secular song, the music was probably not written for public consumption nor a one-time hearing, but rather for repeated enjoyment by an intimate circle of singers. This CD features first recordings of sacred music from the first part of the manuscript, including sections (Kyrie and Sanctus) from one of the earliest polyphonic settings of the Mass to be united by a single melody. We also include music in honor of Saint Anne and Saint Hilarion, two saints celebrated with special pomp at the beginning of the Torino Codex.
The final selection Rose, liz, printemps, verdure returns to a well-known medieval composer who has an oblique connection to the Lusignan court in Cyprus, dating back some three generations prior to the other music on this recording. The last great composer to also be a great poet, Guillaume de Machaut spent much of his life as a canon at Reims Cathedral, the site of French royal coronations. In one of his last poetic works, Machaut penned La Prise d'Alexandrie (The Capture of Alexandria), which chronicles in verse the successful attack on the Egyptian city of Alexandria in 1365 by King Peter I of Cyprus, also of Lusignan descent. Although Machaut did not witness the events he describes (his informants were returning Crusaders), his account of the battles remains one of the most important descriptions of Peter’s expedition. From the musical side of his life, Machaut is perhaps best known today for having set the earliest complete polyphonic Mass Ordinary (including the rarely set Ite Missa est). Rose, liz, printemps, verdure is one of his most famous and catchy songs—a rondeau celebrating a Beautiful Lady who surpasses all the joys of spring. Given the porous nature of sacred and secular themes in the late Middle Ages, it is not inappropriate to see the looming presence of the Virgin Mary in this work. She remains the Beautiful Lady par excellence and, still today, is commemorated with special devotion in the season of spring.
Schola Antiqua of Chicago is a professional vocal ensemble dedicated to the study and performance of medieval plainchant and early polyphonic music before the year 1500. Hailed as a “guiding light in early music” (Peoria Star Journal), Schola Antiqua takes pride in providing the highest standards of research, performance, and education involving many underserved repertories in the western musical canon. Founded in 2000 under the artistic leadership of Professor Calvin M. Bower from the University of Notre Dame, the organization has received invitations to perform from the Indianapolis Early Music Festival, Chicago’s Newberry Library, the Chicago Cultural Center, the University of Chicago, the University of Notre Dame, the American Guild of Organists, and numerous churches across the Midwest. In 2006-2007, Schola Antiqua was Artist-in-Residence at the University of Chicago. The ensemble is currently the Artist-in-Residence of the Lumen Christi Institute.
The Schola has recorded the CD accompanying Theodore Karp’s Introduction to the Post-Tridentine Mass Proper, 1590-1890 (American Institute of Musicology, 2005) and in 2009 released its first independent CD, Long Joy, Brief Languor, which contains the only known recording of the Missa Quem malignus spiritus, one of the earliest “cyclic” masses known in Western music. Fanfare Magazine has called this recording “essential” for the serious collector of English polyphonic music.
Michael Alan Anderson is the second Artistic Director of Schola Antiqua of Chicago, succeeding Calvin M. Bower in 2008. Anderson is a founding member of the ensemble and currently serves on the musicology faculty of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, where he specializes in medieval and Renaissance music. Anderson received a Ph.D. in the History and Theory of Music at the University of Chicago in 2008. Awards include the Alvin H. Johnson American Musicological Society 50 Dissertation-Year Fellowship, the Grace Frank Grant (Medieval Academy of America), the Whiting Foundation Fellowship (University of Chicago), and several travel and research grants. He has published articles in journals such as Early Music History, Plainsong and Medieval Music, and Studi musicali and was named a finalist in the Early Music Scholars Competition, presented by the Chalice Consort (San Francisco). He is also a member of the editorial board for the American Choral Review, a semiannual journal of Chorus America.
As a conductor, Anderson served as Assistant Director of the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel Choir from 2001-2005. He was the student director of the all-male University of Notre Dame Glee Club and has appeared with the ensemble as a guest director in recent years. As a church musician, he has conducted children’s choirs in Chicago and South Bend, Indiana. Besides his appearances with Schola Antiqua of Chicago, Anderson has performed with the Chicago Symphony Chorus under the batons of Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Krzysztof Penderecki, Zubin Mehta, Christoph Eschenbach, Mstislav Rostropovich, and others in venues from Orchestra Hall and the Ravinia Festival in Chicago to Carnegie Hall and the Berlin Philharmonie. In addition to numerous engagements as a professional church musician in Chicago, he has received invitations to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, as well as the professional chamber ensembles Voices (Rochester, NY) and Seraphic Fire (Miami, FL).