2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I agree wholeheartedly with Stephen Midgeley's excellent review on this page: this is a fantastic disc of wonderful music, superbly sung. I have loved Cinquecento's recordings since I came across their first disc five years ago now and Stephen is right - this is their finest yet, which is really saying something.
The music is stunning. The largest work on the disc is the Requiem by Richafort, a pupil of the great Josquin des Prez and which shows a good deal of the beauty and much of the structural brilliance of the music of his teacher. It is a very fine work of great depth and beauty and a fitting tribute to the master by his pupil. There are also four of Josquin's finest motets and chansons here including Nymphes nappées which has been a favourite of mine for many years, Nymphes des bois (the lovely lament for the death of Ockeghem) and the sublime setting of Psalm 51, Miserere mei, Deus which is one of the true glories of the Renaissance in my view.
All of these, and the other three pieces on the disc, are very, very fine pieces. They are technically magnificent constructions (very well explained in Stephen Rice's excellent notes) but what one hears is simply sublimely beautiful, expressive music. Dorothy L. Sayers said of Dante's Divine Comedy that it has an enduring beauty because it is built on noble bones and the same can be said of these pieces.
Cinquecento sing it all magnificently. They are technically superb with impeccable tuning and a real engagement with the text. They have a full, rich sound recorded in a perfect acoustic whose resonance complements the sound perfectly while never blurring or obscuring the individual lines. It's an absolutely spellbinding sound.
I could go on at considerable length, but I'll stop. In short, this is a fantastic disc of superlative music, beautifully sung by an excellent ensemble. Very warmly recommended indeed.
on 1 March 2015
This CD deserves ten stars but since five stars is the maximum that is what I'll award it ! Every aspect of it is exceptional - the music chosen, the singing, the acoustics, the recording engineering, the notes right down to the cover illustration.
The music is centred around that superstar of the Franco-Flemish Renaissance Josquin Des Prez. You could say he is the "cantus firmus" of the CD. Two of his greatest pieces are featured - "Nymphes des bois" the moving lament on the death of Johannes Ockeghem and the incredible "Misere mei, Deus" for me one of the highlights of Renaissance music. The first two pieces "Nymphes, nappés / Circumdederunt me" and "Faulte d'argent" also by Josquin are quoted by Richafort in the Requiem the centrepiece of the CD and 30 minutes of musical bliss.
This was the first time I had heard the group Cinquecento and I must say I was extremely impressed. Each voice is crystal clear; It is possible to follow each voice individually whilst the mix is impeccable. They seem perfect for this repertoire, the lower pitch of an all male ensemble bringing out the message of loss, desperation and pain expressed in the text. Admire their masterful performance of the dark, intricate polyphony of Gombert "Musae Jovis" and the heartfelt piece on the death of Josquin by the little-known Jheronimus Vinders "O mors inevitabilis".
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Sometimes thought in the past to have been by Josquin, this Missa pro defunctis is now more generally believed to have been composed by Jean Richafort as a Requiem upon the death of Josquin in 1521. While Richafort (c1480 - after 1547) was clearly a member of the "post-Josquin generation", he was probably not actually a pupil of Josquin, but nevertheless his music shows the very strong influence of the master. These and many other relevant questions are extensively discussed in Stephen Rice's excellent booklet notes.
Now I must delay not a moment longer but come to the main matter in hand, which is to say this: here is an absolutely wonderful recording, superbly performed, and Richafort's 6-voice Requiem is a stunning and beautiful masterpiece, entirely worthy of serving to mourn the death of the peerless Josquin. The music is deeply moving, sad and yet at the same time comforting in its beauty from the very first notes of the Introitus, never flagging for a moment after that. Moreoever, the performance by Cinquecento Renaissance Vokal, singing one voice to a part at all times, is as near to perfection as I believe any ensemble could get. The two countertenors, Terry Wey and Jakob Huppmann, do a miraculous job on the top lines, the lower voices are just as good, and the entire group sing with an ideally balanced sound and texture - and, what is more, with an absolute conviction that reaches to the very heart of the music and the soul of the listener.
The arrangement of the entire programme of this disc, with the Richafort Requiem at its centre, is equally successful. Most of the works are about mourning and loss, in several cases the mourning of fellow composers. The very first item, Josquin's 6-voice "Nymphes, nappés / Circumdederunt me" is one of the few pieces here that don't appear to be dedicated to any known person or occasion, but nevertheless it expresses almost unbearable sadness and loss from the very first phrases; it also serves the very significant role of introducing the descending motif of the cantus firmus "Circumdederunt me" (Laments of death have surrounded me .....) which frequently appears in the works on this disc including the Requiem. The second item, Josquin's "Faulte d'argent" (Lack of money is sorrow without equal) may seem an odd inclusion in the present context but its presence and relevance are convincingly justified by Stephen Rice, and its music is certainly sad enough, as sung here, to warrant its inclusion. It's even possible that the sentiments of the text may strike a chord with some listeners!
After Richafort's magnificent Requiem itself, other items include "Nymphes des bois/Requiem aeternam", Josquin's own deeply-felt lament on the death of his teacher Johannes Ockeghem; Benedictus Appenzeller's lament on Josquin's death "Musae Jovis", enhanced by the ensemble's intensified outbreak of sadness at the words "Severa mors et improba" (harsh and unjust death). Then we have Josquin's setting of the psalm "Miserere mei, Deus", expressing repentance rather than mourning, followed by Gombert's setting of "Musae Jovis" which actually cheers up quite a bit when Gombert also sets the last two more optimistic verses by the poet Gerard Avidius. The disc ends with the 7-voice "O mors inevitabilis", whose unbearably sad text on the death of Josquin (Inescapable death, cruel death, bitter death) is most beautifully expressed in the music of Jheronimus Vinders.
The recording quality, in the fine acoustic of Kloster Pernegg in the Austrian Waldviertel, is ideal, and this fabulous disc is enhanced still further by its cover illustration. In contrast to Cinquecento's recent preference, in their renaissance recordings, for the highly entertaining composite heads by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, their choice here has very appropriately fallen on a much more serious work of art - the devastatingly tragic realism of Mantegna's foreshortened figure of The Dead Christ with two grief-stricken figures to one side. This, and everything else about the CD and its production - including Stephen Rice's deeply considered booklet essay, offering some fascinating and thought-provoking ideas about these works and about renaissance music in general - are simply superb.
Cinquecento already have several excellent CDs to their credit. But, for me at least, this is the finest yet, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if this Hyperion disc wins a prize or two. In the meantime, renaissance fans shouldn't hesitate; this recording from Cinquecento is masterly, moving and magnificent.