25 Jan 2020

Music for Milan Cathedral

Music for Milan Cathedral
Werrecore – Josquin – Gaffurius – Weerbeke
Siglo de Oro, Patrick Allies
Delphian - DCD34224

This disc celebrates and contextualises the music of Hermann Matthias Werrecore (c1500-c1574) maestro di cappella of Milan Cathedral for nearly three decades. A key figure in the post-Josquin (Josquin des Pres c1450-1521) generation, and one of many Oltremontani (from over the Alps) working in Northern Italy, his sacred works have not previously been recorded despite the quality and variety of his settings and their clear influence by, and homage to Josquin. Alongside six of his motets are also first recordings of works by Dominique Phinot (c1510-c1556) and Gaspar van Weerbeke (c1445- c1516).

The smooth honeyed sound of Siglo de Oro is largely due to the soft and clear sheen of their radiant sopranos. As an ensemble they resemble The Cardinall's Musick both in tone and in their approach to the architecture of larger-scale motets such as Josquin's Alma redemptoris mater / Ave regina caelorum: they choose unhurried tempos but maintain a clear forwards direction in phrasing. Most fascinating on this album are the contrasted settings of Inviolata, integra et casta by Werrecore and Josquin which show a huge attention to detail in performance. [...]

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Feb 2020)

24 Jan 2020

Hellinck: Missa Surrexit pastor; Lupi: Te Deum & motets

Hellinck: Missa Surrexit pastor; Lupi: Te Deum & motets
The Brabant Ensemble, Stephen Rice
Hyperion CDA68304


Forget the glamour of Hollywood's Rat Pack, the sixteenth century had a Wolf Pack of musicians whose names derive from the Latin 'Lupus'. The two composers on this disc may not be the best-known, but their music can be as suave and smooth as anything sung by "Ol' Blue Eyes" himself.

Lupus Hellinck's (1493/4-1541) five voice Missa Surrexit pastor bonus is based on a motet by the Andreas de Silva (fl.1520s). The textures are bright and spacious with delightful trio and duet sections punctuating the movements. This pairing of upper voices suits the generally bright and perky performance style of The Brabant Ensemble and I also admire the pacing: erring towards brisk, the proportions of the movements are clear and the false relations cheekily piquant. [...]


To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Feb 2020)

30 Dec 2019

Nowell synge we bothe al and som

Nowell synge we bothe al and som
A Feast of Christmas Music in Medieval England
Gothic Voices



It seems extraordinary that this should be Gothic Voices’ first Christmas-themed album; nevertheless, it has been worth the wait to hear these well-known works performed by this ensemble. Choosing music for the Advent and Christmas season, including the Feast of the Annunciation (commonly referenced at Christmas in medieval times), Gothic Voices certainly don’t shy away from much-loved treasures such as the 14th-century Angelus ad virginem, where solo verses alternate with sprightly three-part harmony. Their textures are always buoyant: listen for the fourth verse, which describes the Virgin’s swollen womb, where they use an atmospheric vocalised drone. [...]

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Jan 2020)

29 Dec 2019

Antoine Brumel: From Darkness Into Light

Antoine Brumel: From Darkness Into Light
The complete Lamentations of Jeremiah for Good Friday
Musica Secreta

A tale of two Florentine manuscripts copied by the scribe Fra Antonio Moro leads the intrepid musicologist Laurie Stras to create another superb album with Musica Secreta. The first manuscript yields the complete Lamentations for Good Friday by Antoine Brumel (c1460-c1512), previously recorded by The Tallis Scholars (Gimell, 9/92), when only the verses beginning with letters Heth and Caph were known. Stras’s discovery almost doubles the length of the work and delightfully complicates its function. Falling, now, into five sections, liturgical performance seems unlikely, pointing instead to devotional use. Musica Secreta begin rather carefully, the almost equal part-ranges suiting their mix of female voices as singers’ personalities delicately delineate vocal lines. The work, and indeed the performance, really begins to reveal its true richness at the first refrain, ‘Ierusalem convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum’. Supported by the gentle uplift of Claire Williams’s organ-playing and the sinewy tone of Alison Kinder’s viol, the sopranos find a sweet resonance as they lean into the phrases without losing overall blend. The result is a wonderfully radiant sound that allows individual voices to ring through. [...]


To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Jan 2020)

8 Dec 2019

Gesualdo: Madrigali, Libri primo & secondo

Gesualdo: Madrigali, Libri primo & secondo
Les Arts Florissants and Paul Agnew
Harmonia Mundi HAF890530708


Some 30 years ago Iain Fenlon referred to Les Arts Florissants’ initial Gesualdo disc as their ‘first foray into the schizophrenic world of Gesualdo’s five-voice madrigals’ (10/88). His words encapsulated perfectly a common overarching view of Gesualdo’s virtuoso chromaticism which suited the text-centred, quick-fire responses of William’s Christie’s original singers so well. Now the ensemble return to Gesualdo’s madrigals with Paul Agnew at the helm and a new generation of voices as they celebrate their 40th-anniversary concerts. Beginning with Books 1 and 2, we encounter lesser-known and less extrovert works but find the ensemble crackling with that same intellectual energy.

[...]

With the sound of their Award-winning Monteverdi madrigals (1/15, 7/15, 2/17) fresh in our ears, this new disc, also made from live recordings, offers fresh views of that famous madrigalian fork-in-the-road: Monteverdi’s experimental laboratory veered towards monody, Gesualdo’s led him to push further into the polyphonic web, fracturing texts and harmonies. The sheer inquisitive delight that these singers bring to Gesualdo’s extraordinary world indicates a very exciting series ahead.

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Dec 2019)

7 Dec 2019

Palestrina: Lamentations

Palestrina: Lamentations
Cinquecento
Hyperion CDA68284



Palestrina’s second book of Lamentations is surprisingly passionate, and this performance in particular is a gentle reminder that the spacious, clear polyphony of the Ars Perfecta did not preclude a great deal of passionate nuance. Cinquecento – like a European chapel choir of the Renaissance – brings together a fine selection of singers from across the continent, forming a true European union. Their performance of these Lamentations adheres closely to the text, balancing each madrigalian nuance within the overall phrase architecture. Their sound is reminiscent of The Hilliard Ensemble, particularly in the delightful interplay of their two well-matched tenors and the warmth of the overall blend captured through a close, warm recording technique.

[...]

On this note I particularly admire ‘Magna est enim velut mare contritio tua’ (For your downfall is as great at the sea) from the Lamentations for Good Friday, where the sea almost literally sweeps in for this verse. But perhaps the most arresting and unexpected touch is the eight-voice setting of ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem’ at the end of Lectio III for Holy Saturday, where three extra tenor parts fill out the texture and create a magical ending. Throughout this album Cinquecento offer a performance which is truly reflective and tender.


To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Dec 2019)

6 Nov 2019

Josquin des Prés: Missa mater Patris

Josquin des Prés: Missa mater Patris & Noel Bauldeweyn: Missa Da pacem
The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips
CDGIM052


As one of the most important accounts of Josquin’s Masses in recent decades, Peter Phillips’s albums with The Tallis Scholars continue to sparkle and inform. Already in these pages I have admired the clarity of vision and consistency of sound that this ensemble bring to his works; but with this new album there is a particular sheen to the performance that places it among their recent best.

Phillips recently wrote how he feels each of Josquin’s Masses has its own ‘sound world’ (The Musical Times, autumn 2018). As we approach the end of his recording project, this comment comes into sharper focus, and particularly so in the case of Missa Mater Patris. One can argue that this is a late work on the grounds it is potentially a lament for Brumel, who died around 1512 and whose motet provides the model. But also, as Phillips suggests, this ‘forthright’ and ‘bracingly simple’ style could be the refinement of a lifetime’s work. One could say that of this performance as well: it is scored for low voices and these singers find a warmth in the homophonic writing that blooms into an unhurried grandeur. Compared with Chanticleer (7/94) this is a much tighter ensemble in both tone and phrasing, and there are several outstandingly well-controlled spans of two-voice polyphony. Listen especially for the way these singers glide through the exotic chord-chains in the Sanctus: I can’t help but be reminded of the confident sweep of the Andrews Sisters. This is glorious stuff indeed.

[...]

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Nov 2019)