A new release by the Grammy-winning quartet Anonymous 4 is always a guerdon for their legions of fans. Returning to the Montpellier Codex (a manuscript of 336 polyphonic works composed c. 1250–1300; likely compiled c. 1300), they explore love and longing as expressed in 13th-century France. Sung in Latin and French, this program of motets and chansons juxtaposes courtly/pastoral love themes with ardor and praise for Mary, the Lady with no equal. The French motet was the avant-garde music of its time. Bits of trouve`re (troubadour) songs often find their way into them, as do popular tunes such as "En mai quant rosier/L'autre jour par un matin." Earthly love and love of the Virgin Mary could coexist in harmony, as in the chanson pieuse "J'ai un cuer trop lait." Typical of many Mary songs, it begs pardon for a life of sin and guilty pleasures, and asks the Virgin to intercede and sweep potential punishment away.
"With only a single change in personnel in their 20-year recording history, the quartet sounds as fresh and pure in its ensemble sonority as ever. The unison chant is ravishing and the complex polyphony is rendered with admirable transparency."—Absolute Sound