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.
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