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Stephen Midgley (Tarbrax, West Calder, UK)
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Desprez: De Profundis Motets (Psalm Settings) (Weser-Renaissance Bremen; Manfred Cordes) (CPO: 777588-2)
Desprez: De Profundis Motets (Psalm Settings) (Weser-Renaissance Bremen; Manfred Cordes) (CPO: 777588-2)
Price: £13.97

5.0 out of 5 stars The noble art of expression in music, 22 April 2015
Following the great success of their first Josquin disc, Desprez: Missa Ave Maris Stella (CPO: 777590-2), Manfred Cordes and Weser-Renaissance now show us another side to Josquin. It makes a beautiful and strongly contrasting companion programme bringing us works entirely different in mood - Psalm settings which perhaps have a less obvious appeal in today's world. Some would no doubt dispute that, but it could at least be the reason why these pieces tend to be less often recorded.

That first disc consisted of motets and a Mass setting dedicated to the Virgin Mary - captivating music of ecstatic, arching melodic lines, capable of transporting the listener into a world of heavenly beauty. The present disc, on the other hand, takes us into the Old Testament world of the psalms, with music of penitence, pleading and profound meditation. The opening funeral motet, based on the psalm 'De profundis clamavi' (Out of the depths I have cried to thee, o Lord) combined with the first phrases of the Requiem text, sets the tone perfectly. It is most beautifully performed here by Manfred Cordes' team, singing with one voice per part in most of the works - five of the eight singers being the same as on the previous disc referred to, and very fine indeed they all are.

Just to take a couple more examples, 'Domine me in furore' (track 3) has an absolutely lovely, arresting opening, in a low tessitura expressing equally deep meditation, and continues to be sung throughout by tenors and bass only; it's gripping from the start, and never lets go. The next item brings us a marvellous performance of Josquin's setting of Psalm 50/51, 'Miserere mei Deo', one of his best-known works, again profoundly expressive of its textual details; all texts are supplied - essential, of course, for these works - together with translations. For this and for all the pieces here the well-matched voices are again superb, with beautiful blend, balance and clarity, and the music is perfectly paced. The booklet notes are just right, detailed, full of insights and crucial musical-historical background. The recording in a fine church acoustic is excellent, and the cover illustration is yet another asset.

Once again, then, this is wonderful music, in performances as near to perfection as one can imagine; and so we have another outstanding contribution to the Josquin discography from a team who seem to have developed an exceptional way with this composer's works. These psalm settings are masterpieces of the highest order, and they illustrate the extraordinary extent to which 'Josquinus incomparabilis' mastered, explored and advanced the art of textual expression in a way that few other composers, if any, have ever equalled.


Cavalieri: Rappresentatione Di Anima Et Di Corpo
Cavalieri: Rappresentatione Di Anima Et Di Corpo
Price: £22.03

5.0 out of 5 stars Spontaneous and engaging version of a groundbreaking work, 19 April 2015
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Having recently heard and reviewed the recording under René Jacobs of Cavalieri's groundbreaking sacred opera, I have found that the present version by Christina Pluhar's L'Arpeggiata, recorded ten years earlier, offers a fascinating comparison. Just to recap on the nature and significance of this work - and with apologies to both of my regular readers for any repetition - Emilio de Cavalieri's extraordinary 'Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo' was a seminal work in European music. First performed in Rome in the 'Holy Year' of 1600, it is often referred to as an oratorio or sacred opera, but either way it was an utterly original work, composed before any other examples of those formats existed.

Whatever you choose to call it, it is by nature a dramatic work. As its title suggests, it takes the form of an earnest, often tormented dialogue between Body and Soul, with the participation of several other allegorical figures such as Intellect, Pleasure, World, Guardian Angel, Good Counsel - each of these being represented by a singer, of course, with additional choruses of Blessed Souls, Damned Souls or just plain chorus. And then there is the very substantial instrumental accompaniment. The various dialogue sections between the characters are conducted in a mixture of arioso and quasi-aria passages, choruses and instrumental interludes, the pace and mood of the music constantly varying in response to the text. There are also many lively and powerfully expressive choruses with instrumental accompaniment, and these are performed with vigour and imagination by Pluhar's singers and period instrument players.

The soloists, ranging from sopranos to bass, are all excellent and include a number of distinguished names including Johannette Zomer, Nuria Rial, Stephan MacLeod and Marco Beasley. They are extremely effective communicators, powerfully expressive and all fine, stylish voices. The instrumental ensemble including strings, woodwind, cornetti, sackbut, dulcian, percussion and substantial continuo section, here consists of around twenty players - a smaller ensemble than in the Jacobs recording, reflecting the more intimate nature of Pluhar's approach. The cornettists, Doron Sherwin and Gebhard David, are kept very busy indeed and do an outstanding job with their improvised embellishments. In Act 3, the scenes depicting the way to Heaven and the mouth of Hell are especially well depicted, the latter by the lower instruments.

Pluhar's approach to the work is generally more fleet-footed and more personal than Jacobs. Scoring is lighter - the mood more like an opera or masque than you would expect of the first sacred oratorio - and tempi are generally quicker, with the result that the present recording is a few minutes shorter than that of Jacobs. Since the composer himself did not provide his own instrumental interludes - or at least, none that have survived - there is a degree of freedom in choosing suitable passages from other composers, and here the two recordings differ noticeably. Pluhar opts for pieces by Susato, Vierdanck and Merula. Shortly before the ending, Pluhar brings us a gorgeous Ciacogna, stated in the booklet as being by Philipp van Wichel although to me it sounds exactly like Tarquinio Merula's Ciacona. Either way, it's wonderfully played and provides a spirited and engaging climax. Booklet notes and track listing are also unclear about the origin of the very last item, an Epilogo which may or may not be by Cavalieri - here again, booklet notes, libretto and track listing are contradictory. Anyway it provides a rather subdued close but, philosophically, this actually suits the work well. Evidently the conclusion of Cavalieri's work is problematic because Jacobs has trouble with it too.

All texts and translations are provided, and booklet notes are very good. The musicianship in both Pluhar's and Jacobs' recordings is superb. I am very happy to have both of these versions but, if forced to choose, I believe I would have a slight preference for Jacobs: Emilio de Cavalieri: Rappresentatione Di Anima Et Di Corpo. There is an air of spontaneity about Christina Pluhar's work, which is impressive and engaging here as in her other recordings. But in the present work I feel that the profound thought and care which Jacobs puts into everything he does, pays off extremely well and conveys even better both the philosophical weight and the ambitious musical substance of Cavalieri's extraordinary masterpiece.


Bach, Telemann, Fasch, Zelenka: 4 Orchestral Suites
Bach, Telemann, Fasch, Zelenka: 4 Orchestral Suites
Price: £7.16

3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable baroque in stylish performances, 19 April 2015
This is an interesting two-disc collection of late baroque orchestral overture-suites in the manner of Bach or Telemann. The recordings were made in 1990 and 1991; I can't find any trace of their having been issued before now, but I may be wrong. The first of the two CDs is occupied by four suites by JSB's older second cousin, Johann Bernhard Bach of Eisenach. These are lively, graceful and enjoyable works all following the format, by then very popular in German music, of French overture followed by five or six dance movements. Two of the four suites benefit from the additional colour of oboes and bassoons, and all are played with style, sensitivity and fine textures by the excellent Freiburger Barockorchester directed by Thomas Hengelbrock. This is not profound music by any means, and is perhaps more routine and less original than the same formula in the hands of Telemann, for example; nevertheless, Hengelbrock's ensemble make the best possible case for the music and the result makes for entirely agreeable listening.

The second disc brings us greater variety in the form of four more overture-suites, but this time from Fasch, Telemann, Johann Ludwig Bach (still of the same Bach dynasty, of course) and Zelenka. The suite by Fasch is sunny, positive and thoroughly enjoyable, very Telemannesque and played here with terrific verve. In Telemann's own Suite La Musette, named after one of its extremely attractive movements, the composer's quirky inventiveness is evident from the first notes; it's not a work I'd ever encountered before, despite having heard and enjoyed several million of Telemann's overture-suites. The programme concludes with a convincing demonstration of Jan Dismas Zelenka's excellence; his French overture movement is inventive and beautifully coloured, with an especially engaging fugal section and a surprisingly dissonant ending, and the later Siciliano movement is both graceful and unpredictable.

Each of these eight works stands up well on its own, or in the company of other late-baroque composers – apart from JSB. But it's an awful lot of overture-suites, and most people would probably not choose to listen to them all in one go, but rather in smaller doses. Booklet notes are useful although fairly generalised, and recorded sound is faultless. This is an enterprising and instructive set of mostly unambitious but finely crafted, enjoyable music, and the interpretations from Hengelbrock and his team are impeccable.


Sven-Ingvart Mikkelsen · Ensemble Vox Gregoriana - Nicolas Grigny Premier livre d'orgue
Sven-Ingvart Mikkelsen · Ensemble Vox Gregoriana - Nicolas Grigny Premier livre d'orgue
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing, 18 April 2015
Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703) sadly died at the age of 31, and yet within those few short years he was able to establish himself as one of the great organ composers of the baroque. He published this single 'Premier livre d'orgue' in 1699, consisting of an organ Mass and five substantial hymn settings. Bach thought highly enough of the French composer's work to copy out the entire thing for himself.

Judging by reviews I have seen elsewhere, there have been several very fine recordings of the collection, but unfortunately the present set is not among them. Organist Sven-Ingvart Mikkelsen is an able and stylish player and manages to convey some of the splendour, brilliance, and originality of De Grigny's music. In this he is aided by his choice of a fine 1775 instrument, recently restored, in the basilica of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume in Provence, and by excellent recorded sound in a good ambience apart from a permanent background rumble - which the listener can either moderate with the use of tone controls, or else just get used to.

The trouble with this recording is in the treatment of the chant passages interspersing the composer's organ verses, which are an integral part of most of the available recordings of this music. For some reason, instead of using traditional Gregorian chants, Mikkelsen decided to compose his own chants – based on the traditional melodic lines, but with very modern harmonies which sound un-baroque and, to me, entirely inappropriate. Mikkelsen's constantly returning passages are adequately sung by a small group of voices but, since, they intersperse De Grigny's original music at every stage throughout the two discs, for me they are not only distracting but ruinous. There is just one work, the hymn sequence 'Ave maris stella' towards the end of the second disc, where the chant passages are based on the traditional models and sound reasonably appropriate. In his booklet notes the player also writes that the last sung verse used here in the final hymn setting, 'A solis ortus', was composed by Hans Leo Hassler; but it doesn't sound much like the late-renaissance composer to me, and if the statement is true then the music must still have been radically altered by Mikkelsen.

This is all a great shame, because De Grigny's music is magnificent – sonorous, inventive, energetic, daring and original. No wonder JSB admired it! Some of these qualities do come across in this recording but then, at every stage, we are repeatedly distracted by those discordant vocal intrusions. I chose this recording after listening to sound samples from various recordings on the internet. It sounded good on that basis, but the trouble is that each track starts with De Grigny's organ music and so I had no idea of the vocal treatments that were lying in wait to ambush the unwary listener.

So, there's a lesson in there somewhere! I suspect that prospective collectors would do much better to be guided by the invariably well-informed advice of some of our reviewing colleagues on the French Amazon site, and consider the well-regarded recordings of De Grigny's splendid music by the likes of André Isoir, Olivier Vernet, Bernard Coudurier, Michel Chapuis or Jean-Pierre Lecaudey. The present set is available in CD format from some European sources.


Musica Temporis Rudolphi II
Musica Temporis Rudolphi II
Price: £14.28

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant but ill-matched selection, 14 April 2015
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This is a collection to illustrate the exceptional taste and patronage of music on the part of the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II. Establishing his court in Prague castle, the eccentric and imaginative Rudolf (1552-1612) gathered around him some of the finest musicians of the age, including Philippe de Monte, Jacobus Regnart and Matheo Flecha. Her we have a sequence of vocal and instrumental pieces, the former including secular madrigals, sacred motets, solo songs and a double-choir dialogue motet.

It's all well performed by Duodena Cantitans, a choir of 16 voices, and the Capella Rudolphina, a medium-sized ensemble of period instruments including viols, recorders and brass, all directed by Petr Daněk. The best items in my view are the anonymous Introitus (track 2), sung by double choir supported by winds all producing a fine sound; Franz Sale's double-choir dialogue motet 'Dialogismus octo vocum de amore Christi (19); Matheo Flecha's 'La Guerra' (21) for voices and instruments, in places parodying Janequin's famous chanson 'La Guerre'; and the concluding Agnus Dei from Jacobus Regnart's Missa super 'Poi ch'il mio largo pianto', again nicely sung and well demonstrating that composer's beautiful craftsmanship.

Unfortunately the programme is simply too diverse to add up to a coherent sequence. Apart from the items mentioned, a number of the other pieces are delivered in a rather joyless, matter-of-fact manner, not helped by the muffled recorded sound. I would greatly have preferred to hear some more substantial works – only the Flecha piece, for example, is more than 5 minutes long – rather than these twenty-two short pieces which scarcely demonstrate the depth and erudition of the music of Rudolf's court. The entire Mass setting by Regnart, for example, would have been wonderful, instead of the two-minutes-worth that we get here. Booklet notes are useful on background, but there's scarcely a mention of the individual works recorded. Texts are given in the original, with no translations. Enthusiasts of the genre may well enjoy parts of this, but there are much better recordings available of similar repertoire.


& Oceanic Delights of Pos.
& Oceanic Delights of Pos.
Offered by \/\/ WORLD WIDE MEDIA MARKET /\/\
Price: £28.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Neapolitan masque, 14 April 2015
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'The Sylvan and Oceanic Delights of Posilipo' is the title of a Neapolitan masque performed in 1620. Posilipo is a promontory overlooking the sea near Naples and the masque, involving nymphs, shepherds, aquatic creatures and similar, was staged on the orders of the extravagant viceroy Don Pedro Giron, Duke of Ossuna, in an attempt to ingratiate himself with the Habsburg King Philip III of Spain. Since no record has survived of the works performed, contemporary vocal and instrumental pieces were assembled for this 1988 reconstruction by director Philip Pickett. These consist of sinfonie, balli and other dance movements, alternating with songs and madrigals for woodland and sea creatures and minor deities.

There are some attractive instrumental works, played in lively and colourful style by a wide range of period instruments - the list of the New London Consort's instrumental players alone occupying four pages of the CD booklet. Especially infectious pieces include the anonymous opening Sinfonia, Gagliarda, Andrea Ansalone's `La scesa de'Pastori dal Monte', Giacomo Spiardo's `Ballo de' Cigni' and `Ballo de' Selvaggi e delle Simie', and the delightful final `Tre arie del Ballo Cavalieri' - the latter again from the clearly very talented Ansalone. The vocal pieces, although finely sung by an excellent team of soloists, are more uneven, with some rather dull moments; the finest in my view is `Canto delle Sirene' by the outstanding Giovanni Maria Trabaci - a beautiful, gentle, soulful trio for two sopranos and alto with instrumental accompaniment.

The programme doesn't amount to anything of great significance but, in terms of performance and direction, it's well up to the standards established by this formerly well-regarded director. I've added further thoughts, which some readers may feel don't belong in a music review, in the Comments section below.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 14, 2015 5:03 PM BST


Danielis: Caeleste Convivium-Banquet Celeste
Danielis: Caeleste Convivium-Banquet Celeste
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Price: £9.35

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite French baroque discovery, 12 April 2015
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Daniel Danielis (1635-1696) was born in Liège, and worked for most of his career firstly in Flanders and then as Kapellmeister at the Güstrow court of the Duke of Mecklenburg. Only later did he move to France, where he was director of music at Vannes cathedral for the last 12 years of his life. Never admitted into the musical circles of Louis XIV, he was denied the fame achieved by many composers at the court of the Sun King.

His obscurity is unjust, judging by the superb quality of the music on the present disc. This is a cycle of eleven 'petits motets' titled 'Caeleste convivium' (celestial banquet) on sacred texts by a contemporary poet or poets; the cycle forms a devotional sequence which is well explained in the booklet notes. The term 'petit' refers to the modest scoring, rather than to the emotional weight or content of the works, many of which are substantial pieces extending from 6 to 13 minutes. They are scored for three voices and basso continuo, the vocal parts here given mostly to alto, tenor and bass, but in three cases to two sopranos and bass.

Danielis' music provides ample, and natural-sounding, variety of pace and expression, generously responsive to the texts in an almost operatic manner in places. Recitative mixes with arioso passages, with plenty of variation in tempo and metre. The music has an ecstatic, devotional quality, a profound sincerity and eloquence in the finest baroque manner, yet devoid of overt showmanship. This is not to say that the vocal parts are not demanding, for they certainly are; and what's more, they are beautifully sung by all five soloists - with tenor Robert Getchell, in particular, quite outstanding in his extremely demanding roles. Special favourites of mine, after quite a few auditions, are 'Obstupescite omnes' (track 5), 'O salutaris hostia!' (6), the substantial and splendid 'Ad fontes amoris' (7), and another absolute beauty for SSB voices, 'Ad gaudia caeli' (10).

The modest group of singers and players of the Ensemble Pierre Robert, named after Danielis' elder contemporary and directed by organist Frédéric Desenclos, have the full measure of this music, performing with style, polish, purity and absolute sincerity. Recorded sound in a Dieppe church acoustic is excellent, notes in the well-illustrated booklet are extremely interesting and informative, and all texts and translations are given. Altogether, this is an outstanding example of the exquisite subtleties of baroque vocal music.


Francois 1st - Music Of A Reign
Francois 1st - Music Of A Reign
Price: £27.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag with some very good bits, 12 April 2015
This substantial and sumptuously-presented pair of discs consists of two rather different projects. The first - and the more interesting of the two in my view - is a speculative reconstruction of the sacred music performed at that great meeting in 1520 of the kings of France and England and their vast retinues, known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold. It is not known exactly which works were performed for this occasion, but according to contemporary descriptions a Mass was sung, with successive movements from English musicians and composers on the one hand, and from their French counterparts on the other.

It must have been a grand, as well as musically fascinating, ceremony - all the more so since both kings, enthusiastic and tasteful patrons of the arts in any case, set out to celebrate peace and at the same time to impress their erstwhile adversaries. For the purpose of the present project, performed by the early music ensemble Doulce Mémoire, their director Denis Raisin Dadre makes some astute choices. The Kyrie is taken from Claudin de Sermisy's 5-voice 'Missa Quare fremuerunt gentes', the Gloria from Nicholas Ludford's 6-part 'Missa Benedicta et venerabilis', followed by a 6-part Credo by the French Antoine Divitis. Then it's back to Ludford for Sanctus and Benedictus, and to Sermisy's Mass for the Agnus Dei, this time in 8 parts. The Mass movements are introduced by an instrumental Pavane by Attaingnant, and then interspersed with plainchant passages, motets by Jean Mouton, and spoken contemporary descriptions of the occasion.

This amounts to a substantial and extremely impressive Mass performance, full of variety and lasting 70 minutes. For the French Mass sections, as was the practice at the time according to Raisin Dadre's excellent booklet notes, the voices are doubled by wind instruments, while Ludford's Mass movements are sung a cappella. In both music and performance, then, this Mass for the Field of the Cloth of Gold is unlike the normal unified entity of the renaissance Mass, but the rationale for the alternating multi-national procedure adopted for this programme is clear enough and in fact it works very well. Sermisy's Kyrie (track 4) alone is a magnificent structure, a considerable 8-minute movement in sumptuous sound, sung here with two voices per part doubled by cornetti, shawms and sackbuts. In contrast to Sermisy's Franco-Flemish polyphony, Ludford's Mass sections are in a very different style - his graceful, melismatic lines sung here by voices alone. Divitis' Credo is a fine work too, again receiving a sumptuous performance here from voices doubled by instruments. Sermisy's Agnus Dei is once again superb, and I would greatly love to hear the whole work one of these days. Voices and instruments all do a terrific job, performing with conviction and in excellent style. The recorded sound, in Fontevraud abbey, is superb, with a fine ambience as well as exemplary clarity enabling us to follow each voice.

The second disc, titled 'La Chambre du Roy' and recorded in the magnificent Loire chateau of Chambord, offers a selection of the secular music forms favoured by François Ier. So we hear a sequence of chanson settings interspersed with instrumental pavanes, galliards and basses danses. The personnel, while still chosen from the Doulce Mémoire ensemble, are partially different here, with single voices for each chanson part, sometimes accompanied by instruments, and the instrumental pieces played by recorder consort with lutes and percussion. The works are well organised, but by no means all of great interest. One of the better aspects of the procedure applied here is the pairing of settings of the same chanson by two different composers, which makes for interesting comparisons.

The star composer here, for me, is Pierre Certon, whose settings of chansons from his 'Meslanges' collection are superb; his song of lost love 'Je suis déshéritée' (CD2, track 3) is most beautiful; the performance of the engaging melody 'Tant que vivray' (14), for solo soprano and recorders, is delightful, and Certon's setting of 'Contentez-vous' (29) is absolutely lovely. Here again, it would be great to hear a complete recording of his 'Meslanges' collection sometime. However, I also have to say that quite a few other works on this second disc are nothing special. As for performance, most of the voices are OK, but I don't think much of countertenor Paulin Bündgen; the percussionist is also extremely irritating in places, for my taste drawing far much attention to himself with unnecessary smart-alec flourishes.

Musically, then, this paired programme is a mixed bag, the first part being a complete success while the second is far less so. Matters are almost redeemed, however, by the set's presentation, in the form of a lavish 130-page book with stunning illustrations making it a true visual delight - as well as detailed and absorbing notes by director Raisin Dadre and others, full texts and translations and all the documentation you could wish for.


Rubino:Messa De Morti [Cappella Musicale di Santa Maria in Campitelli di Roma; Ensemble la Cantoria, Vincenzo di Betta] [TACTUS: TC 601803]
Rubino:Messa De Morti [Cappella Musicale di Santa Maria in Campitelli di Roma; Ensemble la Cantoria, Vincenzo di Betta] [TACTUS: TC 601803]
Price: £13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid baroque Requiem Mass, 11 April 2015
The baroque composer Bonaventura Rubino (1600-1668), originally from Montecchio in Lombardy but later active in Sicily, had received little attention from musicians or recording companies until recently. But now, in addition to a very fine recording of his `Vespro per lo Stellario' under Gabriel Garrido released a few years ago (Vepres Du Stellario - Palerme 1644 (Garrido)), we now have two recordings of his splendid Messa de Morti appearing in quick succession. In fact, the present one is described as a world premiere, and indeed the work received its first modern performance under Vincenzo di Betta and was then recorded early in 2014, shortly before the other recent recording by the Choeur de Chambre de Namur directed by Leonardo García Alarcón, in which Rubino's Messa is coupled with another Requiem setting by his contemporary Mario Capuana, Capuana; Rubino: Requiem. As it turned out, Alarcón's recording beat the present one into the catalogues by a few weeks; but either way the two recordings are not only very fine, but different enough to offer a fascinating comparison between the two versions.

The approach to the present performance of the Palermo-based composer's 5-part Messa de Morti of 1653, in common with those of many other recordings of renaissance and baroque Masses, is to present it in a liturgical context with the Mass movements interspersed with chant passages, organ works and other instrumental pieces. Contributing composers include Frescobaldi, Cavalli, Carissimi and Salomone Rossi. One result of this process is the impression of a more substantial work - in fact, there are 75 minutes of music on the present disc, as opposed to the 63 minutes of Alarcón's recording covering the Requiem Masses of both Rubino and Capuana. This has nothing to do with tempi, which in both cases are broadly similar, but with the numerous additional works interspersed with the Requiem on the present disc.

As for the performance itself, this is by the combined vocal ensembles Cappella Musicale di Santa Maria in Campitelli di Roma, and Studio di Musica Antica "Antonio Il Verso" di Palermo, directed by Vincenzo di Betta. The choir's numbers are similar to those of the Choeur de Chambre de Namur, namely around 5 voices per part, but for the present recording they are supported by the fine period wind instruments of the Ensemble La Cantoria doubling and embellishing the vocal parts, in addition to the written basso continuo.

The singers form an excellent ensemble - fine, well-coached voices performing with spirit, conviction and excellent style. The solo and concerted vocal passages are beautifully done, with some really lovely solo work - in fact the latter deserve great credit, but sadly I can't name any individual singers because, although they are all listed in the booklet, there's no indication of which ones undertake the solo, duet or trio passages. So I can only say that they are all first-class, and that the instrumental embellishments, from cornetti for example, are in equally fine and spirited style. The result, then, is a vigorous, colourful and committed performance of this very fine work, under the excellent direction of Vincenzo di Betta. I had not come across the latter's work until now, but it doesn't surprise me to learn from the booklet that he is associated with the superb early-music director Gabriel Garrido.

The booklet notes are excellent, but no texts are provided - this also being the case with Alarcón's recording; this is slightly less of a nuisance than usual because, in the case of a Requiem Mass, most collectors are likely to have the text somewhere else in their collection. Comparing these two excellent recordings of Rubino's Requiem, then, I would say that the present performance stands out for its variety and colour - resulting from both the lively instrumental participation and the additional interspersed works - whereas the assets of Alarcón's version include unity and purity, the superb vocal blend of the Choeur de Chambre de Namur, and a warmer recorded ambience. The latter disc, of course, also juxtaposes the contrasting Requiem Mass by Capuana, although in my view the Rubino is the finer of the two works. I would not like to have to choose between the two recordings - I am glad to have both of them, and, above all, Rubino's Messa de Morti is a beautiful and fascinating work which is amply worthy of two or more contrasting interpretations.


Robert Mallorie: English consort music from the 16th and 17th century
Robert Mallorie: English consort music from the 16th and 17th century
Price: £18.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Virtuosity, unity and variety, 7 April 2015
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This is a sequence of 16th- and 17th-century English consort music based on the tradition established as a result of Henry VIII's love of the recorder consort, which was first introduced at the English court by the Bassano brothers from Venice. The pieces are played here by the Netherlands-based ensemble The Royal Wind Music, on a rich and varied range of instruments from sopranino to sub-contrabass recorder, under the direction of Paul Leenhouts. Many of the works were originally composed for viol consort but, far from any harm being done by Leenhouts' arrangements for woodwind, the results are delightful.

Composers represented include Parsons, Tallis, Brade, Dowland, Weelkes, Byrd, Bull and Holborne. The pieces are selected and organised in such a way as to produce an extremely attractive programme with ample variety of form and tempo, and with moods ranging through cheerful, contemplative to melancholy. Among my own favourites here is Robert Parsons' 'A Song called Trumpetts' (track 2), a piece which has already attracted some attention in other recordings, Coronation Music for Charles II and Waytes: English Music for a Renaissance Band, and here it gets an entirely different treatment in this delicate woodwind scoring, Parsons' engaging melody tripping along to delightful effect. In contrast, Coprario's 'Fantasia' (3) epitomises the deeply thoughtful nature of much English music of the Tudor period; the work is usually played by viols, but these recorder players are so good that the result is captivating. The infinitely subtle textures of the viol consort are hard to match, but the woodwind players here come as close as anyone could.

The 'In Nomine' setting (13), by the reputedly drunken and dissolute Thomas Weelkes, is superb, with no signs of inebriation whatsoever; it's especially enhanced here by the colouring of the lower-range recorders. Byrd's mesmerising 'Browning' (14) is delivered with more vigour and propulsion than usual. Clement Woodcock's 'Hackney' (15) is exceptionally charming in spite of its brevity, particularly for its pointed, imaginative playing. Anthony Holborne can always be relied upon for fine melodies, and here his 'Pavan: The Image of Melancholly' (16) sounds gorgeous, with a nice contrast in the cheerful 'Heigh Ho Holiday' that follows. John Bull's 'The Bull Masque' (19) is another delight, epitomising the composer's distinctive melodic and rhythmic genius. The two closing works by Mr. Anonymous (21 and 22) bring the programme to a joyful and exuberant close.

Director Paul Leenhouts' booklet notes are excellent, and the many illustrations, although drastically miniaturised, are very fine. Altogether this is a programme devised for both unity and variety, and performed with virtuosity and sensitivity. For me it's a great success, and it's sure to appeal to enthusiasts of music of the Tudor period. I hope these players will bring us plenty more CDs as good as this.


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