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Grammy Nomination 2005
Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Bestenliste 2/2004
Fono Forum, Empfehlung des Monats
Gramophone, Editor’s Choice

This is a landmark recording and a courageous venture. It is probably the first devoted to Machaut’s motets, containing no fewer than 18 of the 23 that survive. It is certainly the first to present them in the order in which Machaut himself presented them in his own manuscripts. And the performances are of a truly mandarin refinement. Here are The Hilliard Ensemble with goodness knows how many combined years of experience performing this kind of music in public; they are not just on the top of their form but also constantly showing the fruits of that experience.
David Fallows, Gramophone

Recordings of the Mass are infrequent, and albums drawn from other corners of Machoaut’s copious output are rarer still. The Hilliard Ensemble helps to redress that neglect with a new selection of 18 motets, secular and sacred songs, in French and Latin. … The five Hilliard singer render these pieces beautifully, in the smoothly blended sound that has become the ensemble’s trademark. … The conjecture the Hilliard singers provide has less to do with historical re-creation than with bringing this marriage of text and music to life for listeners attuned to modern notions of tone. As it happens, the transposition works extremely well.
Allan Kozinn, The New York Times

The Hilliard allow their performances to unfold at their own, sometimes leisurely, pace; the singer’s tone is wonderfully even and the dissonances are allowed to pass by naturally without special emphasis. Every number here has the same unflashy polish, and it is not surprising that this disc should have been released to celebrate the Hilliard’s 30th anniversary this year. These are performances full of insights derived from long experience of singing such elusive music, yet ones that wear experience and musical scholarship lightly. The decisions about the way in which the music should be realised and the texts delivered, always vital considerations when dealing with the works of this period, are made without fuss and seem utterly natural. It is a marvellous survey.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian

If I tell you that my favourite disc of recent months contains over an hour’s worth of three-minute bursts of the same kind of music, seven centuries old and built on principles in no way related to anything else in our repertory experience, you may want to change stations…but wait! Know first that the disc is on ECM, one of the more trustworthy of surviving classical labels, and that the performers are the Hilliard Ensemble, that lively and questing group – countertenors, tenors, baritone – whose lust for stylistic exploration is apparently boundless. here they sing a collection of motets by the fourteenth-century poet, philosopher, musician and churchman Guillaume de Machaut, music whose strange, distant beauty is much enhanced by the typical ECM treatment. …
We cannot, of course, hear this music with fourteenth-century ears, but the weight of history can be a marvellous enablement for discovering a whole new level of freshness in this music. Is it so wrong to hear Arvo Pärt or Bartók or Charles Ives in the cross-references and false cadences in Machaut? It would be equally wrong to hear this music as any kind of primitive, to miss the high level of poetic daring in the textual or musical crossovers, the sheer beauty in the sinuous melodic lines. This is a hypnotic, stupendous disc.
Alan Rich, LA Weekly

The music’s florid and rhythmically complex contrapuntal lines, each setting different words, may lack the immediate appeal of the Mass, but the members of the Hilliard Ensemble have complete affinity with its style and the vocal virtuosity to convey Machaut’s deeply felt emotions with a conviction and intensity that bring out the music’s true greatness.
Elizabeth Roche, Daily Telegraph

Voici les cinq Britanniques tout occupés à sublimer les Motets de Guillaume de Machaut. Lisibilité absolue, expressivité poussée à l’extrême : grâce aux voix irréelles des Hilliard, la science des entrelacs, l’alchimie mélodique du génial compositeur-poète bouleverse comme jamais.
Tribune de Genève

Die isorhythmischen Motetten Guillaume de Machauts verkörpern die höchste Kunst mittelalterlicher Mehrstimmigkeit. ... Ein faszinierendes Mit- und Nebeneinander von verschiedenen Sujets und musikalischen Linien, das zu aufmerksamen Hinhören zwingt. Das Hilliard-Ensemble führt das fragile Gebilde aus strenger Linearität und emotionalem Ausdruck zu betörender Wirkung. Vom Geflecht der fünf Männerstimmen, die sich klanglich aneinander reiben, ohne je den übergeordneten strukturellen Atem aus den Augen zu verlieren, vermag man sich nur schwer zu lösen.
Christoph Ballmer, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Die 18 hier eingespielten Werke lassen Guillaumes künstlerische Physiognomie deutlich zu Tage treten: Sie zeichnen das Portrait eines sensiblen, feinnervigen Lyrikers, dem es gelingt, innerhalb der hochartifiziellen isorhythmischen Strukturen eine Klangsprache von zarter Expressivität erblühen zu lassen. ... Dass die Aufnahme der meist zäsurarm voranwiegenden Motetten eine ganz eigentümliche, sinnlich-reizvolle Wirkung entfalten kann, liegt nicht zuletzt auch an den exzellenten Hilliards, die die unverkennbare Klanglust und fremdartig wirkende Dissonanzfreude der Musik mit ihrem typischen Ensemblesound genüsslich auskosten.
Marcus Stäbler, Fono Forum

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