"Like stepping into another world": Professor of Music produces ground-breaking recording of music from the 100 Years' War.
A recording of fifteenth-century music made by the Binchois Consort conducted by Barber Professor of Music Andrew Kirkman has been making waves on BBC Radio 3 and in Gramophone magazine.
The project breaks new ground in its meticulous piecing together of the sound world of the court of Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt. Via an astonishingly wide range of music by Lancastrian chapel musicians and even, in one case, by Henry himself, Professor Kirkman’s work brings new light to a fascinating but still all too little understood era of music history. Released on the Hyperion label, the recording has already reached the final three in the ‘Early Music Disc of the Year,’ category of the Gramophone Classical Music Awards, 2017, widely regarded as the most influential and prestigious classical music awards in the world.
In addition to its success as performance-practice research, the recording and its accompanying materials have been recognised as delivering new levels of insight into the images and ideas that would have informed and interacted with this music. Speaking on Radio 3’s ‘Record Review’, the performer, scholar and broadcaster Natasha Loges described how she was left ‘utterly spellbound by this complete experience, not just the music, but the story that they tell around it, the way they illustrate it’. For her, she said, the project offered ‘the perfect fusion of scholarship and art history’’.
The vividness with which Professor Kirkman and his musicians have recreated and explored cultural experiences from 600 years ago has been a common theme amongst critics. Elin Manahan Thomas, for example, described the work as ‘opening a door to the past, so atmospheric, so haunting; it’s like being there’, while Andrew Mellor enthused that it was ‘like stepping into another world.’
Andrew Kirkman said ‘I’m delighted that this recording has been so well received. In the fifteenth century, music played an integral role in the lives of individuals and communities, at times of peace and of war. We are only just beginning truly to appreciate how important music and imagery were in forming and articulating cultural and political experience. This project will allow a wider public to understand and engage with music and visual imagery as an integral ingredient in the cultural world of our forebears.’
‘Music for the 100 Years’ War’, by the Binchois Consort conducted by Andrew Kirkman, is on Hyperion CDA 68170