Seattle Machaut Review

Cappella Romana Rehearsing Machaut: Messe de Nostre Dame in Seattle
The men of Cappella Romana are warming up for Machaut: Messe de Nostre Dame in Seattle!

“The most visceral part of the recital was simply the experience of hearing this music in a close approximation to its original acoustical and architectural context. What’s more, partaking in Machaut’s Messe reinforces why Medieval music is so fascinating to contemporary composers. Listening to it is rather like listening to a 20th century landmark composition for the first time. The music is speculative, exploratory, even avant-garde. You can tell that its practitioners were eager to learn how polyphony worked: how voices should move, how textures might be built, which intervals should be considered consonant or dissonant, and how one could possibly capture these newfangled ideas in written form—the very concept of a “piece” of music as a physical manifestation on a scrap of parchment. When you hear these sounds, you’re listening to the birthing of Western art music, the fledgling of a new musical language—even if that sense of striving is less evident in the Messe (which culminated both Machaut’s career and a particular lineage of French polyphony reaching back three centuries) than it might be in Machaut’s more experimental chansons, or the motets and organa of his Frankish predecessors. … It’s fitting that his valedictory work, the product of such tumult and persistence, should convey so directly to modern listeners a momentous range of musical and human experience.”

Michael Schell

See the full review of the concert and music at