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Considering his vast output of music, Philippe de Monte doesn't feature in the catalogue all that much, which is a shame as this disc shows that he was a composer of real stature who produced some very fine works. I had previously known de Monte largely through his famously sending his lovely motet Super flumina Babylonis to Byrd, lamenting the oppression of Catholics in England (and Byrd responding with a fabulous setting of Quomodo cantabimus?) This disc comprises a very fine mass setting, a Magnificat and several motets and is a very welcome addition to my collection.

Cinquecento sing the music superbly. The beautiful sound which was such a feature of their disc of Regnart's music Regnart: Missa Super Oeniades Nymphae is here too. They are an all-male sextet with top lines sung by countertenors, so the pitch is relatively low and this and the resonant acoustic gives a fabulous, warm, enveloping sound which loses none of the detail and expressiveness of either the music itself or the fine performance. Intonation is impeccable and the singing is wonderfully clean and sympathetic to the text without disturbing the overall beauty of the sound. The combination of top-quality performance with excellent recorded sound makes this a favourite disc of mine and I recommend it very warmly indeed.
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Well OK, not quite. The "Full Monte" would comprise over a thousand madrigals, 38 mass settings, around 250 motets and 144 "madrigali spirituali". With such a huge output it seems mystifying that Philippe de Monte's name has fallen into obscurity unlike some of his contemporaries such as Palestrina and Lassus who have basked in considerable glory. On the evidence of the mass (Missa 'Ultimi miei sospiri'), six motets and a Magnificat presented here (along with a madrigal of Philippe Verdelot providing the basis for the mass), it's not as if he was just knocking out substandard pieces, as the quality stands right alongside the other great composers of the age. I make no apologies for quoting the sleeve notes which themselves quote from the Grove Dictionary of Music, which describes Monte's music as "unfolding in unhurried, sometimes quite melismatic lines, with little evidence of post-Tridentine concerns about textual clarity".

Every disc by the sextet "Cinquecento" is a wonder, and this is no exception. There is probably no better exponent of Renaissance polyphony around right now. The recorded sound is truly excellent, and as usual there are useful notes on the pieces by Stephen Rice, along with full Latin (and Italian for the Verdelot madrigal) texts and translations.
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