Un Tres Doulx Regard /
Asteria (Sylvia Rhyne, soprano, Eric Redlinger, tenor, lute) / Asteria AMCD 0309
“Just like the shy young lover who is knocked off his feet by the object of his affections, the music of the first generation of Burgundian composers at the end of the ars nova is infused with the sweetness and explosive passion of new love.”
On this disc, tenor-lutenist Eric Redlinger is cast in the role of the shy young lover courting soprano Sylvia Rhyne and while explosive passion may not be entirely accurate, infused with sweetness the result surely is.
Like Asteria’s other recordings, “Un tres doulx regard” focuses on the music of the French and Burgundian fifteenth century. In this case, selecting the entirety of its repertory from the manuscript Oxford, Canonici misc. 213. It bears repeating that this manuscript is one of the principle sources for the chansons of Dufay and Binchois, but while three of their works are found here, the rest of the recording is devoted to lesser-known composers, as well as anonymous repertory.
That fact alone makes this disc a worthy addition to any library and a particularly valuable asset to those of us who study the music from this time period. However, Asteria gives us much more than a mere study tool. Sylvia Rhyne’s soprano is at once warm and richly inviting, supple enough to make the trickier or more syncopated rhythms seem effortless, and sensitive enough to shade each phrase with just the right touch of restrained emotion, such as on the anonymous “Pour medisans ne pour leur faux parler.” Although (or perhaps because?) she has performed in a number of different styles on the stage, her voice is well suited to this repertory.
A lovely contrast to Rhyne is found in the quieter, more straight-toned tenor of Eric Redlinger. He also approaches both the music and the text with a great deal of sensitivity, shadowing her voice in the imitative sections, but never encroaching too much on the prominence of her melodic line. His lute playing matches his singing — quiet, subtle, and precise while accompanying, but quite delightful in its own right, providing a nice contrast to the vocal parts on the three featured instrumental pieces. The “Amour venes mon cuer reconforter” is particularly attractive; it begins with a fairly bare-bones approach, sedate and simple, but then, in a flurry of graceful ornaments, it picks up in tempo and in volume before dramatically slowing down for a final presentation of the melody, offered almost as an afterthought.
Even without benefit of sight, this listener felt as though she had intruded upon an intimate moment between these two. The contrast in their voices makes it feel as though Redlinger is singing to Rhyne, wooing her with music, and the rest of us have the sheer fortune to stumble upon them. All in all, these works are beautifully performed, both individually and as an album.