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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sistine Chapel circle, 13 Mar 2013
Stephen Midgley (Tarbrax, West Calder, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Musique a la Chapelle Sixtine autour de 1490 (Audio CD)
I agree with all the opinions and comments in E.L. Wisty's excellent review of this set, so I'll just add some more details, mainly about the selection of music.

On CD1, Josquin's little-known opening piece is short but lovely. Next we hear extracts from two of his Masses, "La sol fa re mi" and "Fortuna desperata". It's a slight pity that we're not given the song itself, upon which Josquin worked his marvellous paraphrase Mass, but then there's a good chance that many renaissance fans will have it in some form or other elsewhere in their collections. If not, it's well worth getting hold of at least one version. Anyway, it's lovely to hear these Mass movements in such a very fine performance as here. The following group of pieces by Gaspar van Weerbeke are fascinating, seemingly getting better as they go along; the motet "Ave regina celorum" (CD1, track 8) is lovely and actually quite Josquin-esque, as in the duetting at the start and in later passages. The Agnus Dei from the engagingly titled "Missa Princesse d'amourettes" is very fine too, and I would certainly be glad to hear the whole work sometime - any chance, Mr. Rodin?

Our introduction to Marbrianus de Orto with the motet "Lucis creator optime" is most impressive, and his music's quality is further demonstrated on CD2; but before that, CD1 ends with Josquin's relatively unfamiliar "Domine non secundum", including an especially exhilarating passage at the words "Adiuva nos". The main works on the second disc are two complete "L'Homme armé" paraphrase Masses by de Orto and Josquin (super voces musicales). This time we do get the famous original song - in two versions, in fact - with its unmistakable angular melody, and as always this helps us to study and appreciate the ingenuity with which the two composers craft their paraphrasing. De Orto's setting, in fact, has an arresting quality that demands attention - there's never a dull moment here. Of course the same applies to Josquin, yet the two are quite different and they make a fascinating comparison. To round it all off, Rodin's singers bring Josquin's Agnus Dei to a stunning conclusion - with striking irony, they really do sound like a bunch of men armed to the teeth as they sing out the final phrase "Dona nobis pacem" - grant us peace, or else!

This, then, is a fascinating and enterprising programme, and a superb addition to the excellent series "Musique en Wallonie". The music of these lesser-known composers, especially de Orto, is by no means put to shame by that of 'Josquinus incomparabilis'. As E.L. Wisty says, recording and presentation are superb and the performances by the young U.S.-based early music ensemble Cut Circle, directed by Jesse Rodin, are absolutely outstanding. With female sopranos and male altos on the upper lines, the voices are all excellent, beautifully blended, and they perform the works with liveliness, delicacy and flexibility of pace. They obviously know what they are singing about, they articulate the words clearly and respond with sensitivity to the texts. This group of singers are a terrific ensemble, singing with style, clarity and commitment under Rodin's inspired direction, and I hope we'll be hearing plenty more from them. Many thanks to E.L.Wisty for bringing this set to my attention and, I hope, to that of many other renaissance fans.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Josquin alongside his contemporaries, 4 Feb 2013
E. L. Wisty "World Domination League" (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Musique a la Chapelle Sixtine autour de 1490 (Audio CD)
This two disc set by the ensemble Cut Circle under director Jesse Rodin comes alongside a scholarly monograph by Rodin, Josquin's Rome: Hearing and Composing in the Sistine Chapel. The recording, apart from the stated aim of the title to give a flavour of the music sung in the Sistine Chapel around 1490, not long after its completion, also sets out to show Josquin's distinctiveness by placing some of his compositions alongside those of some of his contemporaries little known in this day and age, which were sung alongside those of Josquin in the Sistine Chapel. Many of these have never been recorded before, mostly by Marbrianus de Orto, including a complete performance of his virtually ignored Missa "L'Homme Armé" set alongside Josquin's own Missa "L'Homme Armé" (super voces musicales) which is possibly the most famous and most frequently performed of all the "L'Homme Armé" masses; but also three pieces by Gaspar van Weerbeke and one by Bertrandus Vaqueras. There is even newly recorded Josquin material with the opening piece "Nardi Maria pistici" never having been committed to disc hitherto.

Cut Circle singing with two voices per part deliver really elegant and confident performances, and the recorded sound benefits from an excellent acoustic in the chosen location (so often this kind of music recorded in the USA, as this is, suffers in this respect). The discs come in a well-presented hardback booklet with excellent notes by Rodin in English, French, Dutch & German. Rodin discusses musical forms employed in the pieces and even indicates to the reader particular points in the works by minute & second as to where to listen out for what he is talking about - a nice touch, and why can't others manage this? Full Latin sung texts are provided with translations in all four languages. It's a quite wonderful set and something of a bargain which ought to be snapped up without delay by any Renaissance sacred music enthusiast.
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Musique a la Chapelle Sixtine autour de 1490
Musique a la Chapelle Sixtine autour de 1490 by Cut Circle (Audio CD - 2013)
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