This album is a programme of 14th-century motets and mass movements represents two of the most important sources of French medieval music.
The Ivrea Codex now lives in the Chapter library of the cathedral of Ivrea, a small town in the foothills of the Italian Alps, south of the modern ski resort of Aosta (home to an important 15th-century music manuscript). This may seem an unexpected area in which to find major sources of medieval music, but in fact the position of these towns on one of the main routes across the Alps between France and Italy readily explains their importance in the Middle Ages. They lay on roads that linked centres of power, and accordingly they grew in importance themselves, sustaining cathedrals with musical traditions that provided a natural home for collections of sophisticated polyphony.
Guillaume de Machaut is one of the first composers who was well aware of his influence on the history of music: at the end of his life he collected his complete body of work in a large book. This neatly arranged, well preserved manuscript contains not only all of his compositions, but also 15 epic poems and over 250 lyric poems. Machaut was an all-round musician, and he was unique in the fact that he wrote commentaries for his own work. His best known work is probably his Messe de Nostre Dame, the first mass which wa composed as a whole. Besides this, Machaut primarily wrote secular music, in all common genres of his time, such as the chanson and the virelai. His versatility brought him great fame, which still lasts in our day and age.