This performance never comes to life, and the instrumental, vocal doublings - if authentic - do not please my ear, only become wearisome, serving to clog the texture, and further rob the voices of what little expressivity (so often lacking in Magificat's efforts - unlike the Tallis Scholars') they possess.
Here is a very different side to the multi-faceted genius of Philippe Rogier, from the one heard in the previous disc of his music by this excellent choir Magnificat under Philip Cave. That very fine CD brought us some of his motets and, above all, his beautiful parody mass based on Gombert's motet "Ego sum qui sum", works very much in the Franco-Flemish polyphonic style of Rogier's homeland: Philippe Rogier Missa Ego Sum.
This was a renaissance composer of exceptional brilliance and versatility, whose life was sadly cut short at the age of 35. At 18 he was one of many Franco-Flemish musicians brought to Madrid by King Philip II, and in 1586, when he was still only 25, he had already achieved the remarkable position of maestro de capilla at the Spanish royal court. This career story is important, because it placed Rogier in an especially favourable position to absorb and combine different regional influences in his music. So his work reflects the melodic beauty, ingenuity and polyphonic complexity of his native Flanders, together with the devotional fervour of Iberian sacred music. To these elements are then added the rich sonorities and stately declamation of the new Venetian polychoral style that was developing in his time, and it is these aspects that are especially prominent in the works chosen for the present recording.
The opening triple-choir motet "Domine Dominus noster" clearly demonstrates these qualities, as does the 12-voice Mass of the same name that follows - although this is not a parody mass, just closely related in style. The rich texture is varied throughout the mass by passages for smaller groups of voices, and the entire work sounds very fine, with Cave's singers ably accompanied by the instruments of His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts to produce a magnificent overall sound. The Gloria and Credo movements each build up to a superbly sonorous conclusion.
This first mass is followed by two motets, representing perhaps the clearest synthesis of Franco-Flemish and Venetian styles on this disc. The instrumental contributions sound especially fine here, with the clear, sweet tones of the cornetts ringing out beautifully in support of the upper voices. These are followed by the second Mass on the disc, the 8-part "Missa Domine in virtute tua", together with the Palestrina motet on which it is based. In fact Rogier's Mass departs considerably from its model, but it is a beautiful piece of clear textures and graceful, distinctive melodies; in fact this is my own favourite of the works on this CD.
Altogether this well-chosen programme offers us a fine survey of the polychoral music of this remarkable and versatile genius, performed with great variety of texture, scoring and instrumentation. Moreover nearly all of these works, apart from the first of the two masses, are new to the catalogues. Linn's recording, too, is excellent, as are Dr. Cave's own booklet notes. But, for me at least, the best news of all is that the ensemble are going to be continuing their series of recordings of this late-renaissance master. I understand that their next disc, due for release in late 2011 or early 2012, will include Rogier's truly exquisite parody mass on the beautiful motet by Clemens non Papa "Inclita stirps Jesse", together with the cantus firmus mass "Philippus Secundus Rex Hispaniae". Early music fans may well wish to look out for this, while those who have already heard the choir perform these works in concert will need no further persuasion (see, for example, Oxford Times concert review, 22nd February 2011). In the meantime we can enjoy some rare but splendid renaissance music, thanks to Magnificat and to Philips Cave, Rogier and Secundus.
I will keep this short and sweet. If you have not heard Magnificat's previous recording of Tallis Spem in Alium then you are seriously missing out. I have been a follower of the group since it first started in Oxford in the early 1990's. This new recording is not just of special performance practice interest, it is a wonderful account of the non coro spezzati style. Beautifully sung and played. Certainly on a par with the wonderful new Striggio 40 part Mass recording. I downloaded this disc on flac. Wonderful performances.