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

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)

5 Nov 2019

Air Music: Tales of Flying Creatures and Heavenly Breezes

Air Music
Capella de la Torre
Katharina Bäuml
Deutsche HM

This third instalment in Capella de la Torre’s series of the four elements is every bit as fresh and thoughtful as one would expect from one of Europe’s leading early wind ensembles. The programme consists largely of Renaissance and early Baroque music and opens with an instrumental performance of Thomas Ravenscroft’s canon The wind blows out of the west introduced by wind machine and accompanied by gentle percussion. The sprightly opening and chirrupy fanfare calls are exactly the sort of perky texture that these musicians serve best. Continuing with Westron Wynde in a section of the programme called ‘Gone with the Wind’, John Sheppard’s Gloria from his Mass ‘The Western Wynde’ is performed by soprano and instrumental ensemble. This is an extraordinary work, so different here with the warm reeds and occasional embellishments from the classic vocal recording by The Tallis Scholars (Gimell, 9/93). Instead of high, soaring phrases we have something contained and brisk. It’s not unattractive, but at some of the more complex passages such as ‘Suscipe deprecationem nostram’ and the change to triple time for ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’, metrical accuracy takes precedence over musical flow.


This enjoyable album has a stylish snap, especially in the dance music that Capella de la Torre perform so well. And, as ever with this superb ensemble, the percussion subtly steals the show at every opportunity. I defy anyone to sit still through Praetorius’s Ballet de bouteile.

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

4 Nov 2019

Peñalosa - Lamentationes

Peñalosa - Lamentationes
New York Polyphony

It’s wonderful to hear more music from Francisco de Peñalosa (1470-1528), and particularly pleasing that it comes on this stylish release from New York Polyphony complete with superb booklet notes by Ivan Moody. Peñalosa’s life coincided with the beginning of the Spanish ‘Golden Age’ and he was a key figure in the generation before Cristóbal de Morales (1500 53). A useful elevator pitch would be ‘Flemish polyphony with a twist’.


Two standout pieces are the Stabat mater by Pedro de Escobar (fl1507 14), a short but arresting setting of the first two verses. Rich and vibrant in texture, it again draws on this ensemble’s deep palette of vocal colours. The second is the Credo from Missa L’homme armé, which sits like a declamatory jewel in the middle of this disc. Previously known only by The Orlando Consort’s brighter, sparkling performance (Harmonia Mundi), it is here taken slightly slower and with more gravitas. However, with only six surviving cyclic Masses by Peñalosa, not all of which are yet represented on disc, my gripe is that this Missa L’homme armé is incomplete, lacking its five-voice Kyrie and the Sanctus/Benedictus. While not musically problematic, it is something of a shame not to have the opportunity to hear the whole thing, especially considering the quality and beauty of performance in the other movements.

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