25 Aug 2020

Cupertinos: a passion for Portuguese polyphony

‘It was a great pleasure to meet Luís Toscano and to hear the Cupertinos live at Cadogan Hall last February,’ says Edward Breen, author of this month’s feature on the vocal ensemble. ‘Their charismatic performances inspired me to embark on a lockdown listening odyssey of Portuguese polyphony.’



It’s not called a golden age for nothing: the polyphony of renaissance Portugal is deeply expressive and shares a richly extended post-Palestrina lexicon with its Spanish counterparts. On occasion it also features well controlled wafts of chromaticism echoing Gesualdo and his kind. So, if you are new to this music don’t let anyone sell you a story of minor masters, Portugal has serious talent. Furthermore, due to a sixty-year Spanish rule (1580–1640) Portugal’s golden age often described as pan-Iberian at least until the restoration of their monarchy with King John IV, João o Restaurador. To be sure King Philip of Spain had supported the Portuguese musicians during his rule, but it is through a Byrd-esque concentration on texts describing the destruction of Jerusalem and captivity under foreign rule that we detect a yearning for independence being communicated by these artists, so the history of the music is also fascinating.

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

24 Aug 2020

The Call of Rome

The Call of Rome: Music by Allegri, F. Anerio, Josquin and Victoria

The Sixteen, Harry Christophers
Coro F COR16178



The draw of Italy for mid sixteenth century northern European composers – oltremontani - ‘those from the other side of the alps’ and their eventual succession by Italian composers is a well explored program, yet here Harry Christophers includes several lesser known works to mark the 20th anniversary of The Sixteen’s Choral Pilgrimage.

Opening with Victoria’s (1548-1611) Tenebrae Responsories for Holy Saturday the singing is characteristically clear and impassioned with the solo quintet particularly vivid and gripping in O Vos Omnes: ‘Look, all you peoples,/ And see my sorrow.’ Interlacing this programme are motets by Josquin (1452-1521) which create a few sudden chronological shifts much softened by assured performances. Pater Noster / Ave Maria is surely one of Josquin’s best and this rich six-voice setting flows beautifully on this album. Impressive too is Illibata Dei virgo, in which an acrostic embeds Josquin’s own name. The balance of controlled, flowing duets with nimble passagework is delightful.

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