Music Reviews: Renaissance Choral Music by Cupertinos

As we approach the holiday season of an annus horribilis, it can be comforting to remember that centuries ago we humans created indescribably beautiful and enduring works of art to celebrate our holidays, even though we were unable to understand the plagues and To prevent or alleviate pestilences that have routinely plagued the planet. This year, with a new plague falling upon us despite modern medicine and technology, we can still enjoy new recordings of masses by the Portuguese composer Duarte Lobo (c. 1565-1646) and the even more ancient (though heard more frequently). Josquin des Pre? S (or des Pre? Z) (ca.1450 / 1455-1521).

The first album comes from the Portuguese Cupertinos choir, directed by Luís Toscano. Perfect for the season, it includes a number of Christmas answers. The second comes from the better known Tallis scholars under the direction of Peter Phillips. Both albums are excellently sung and recorded. Regardless of religious feelings and content, this music can act as a balm for the injured spirit of our time.

Cupertinos, a vocal ensemble dedicated to the Portuguese music of the 16th and 17th centuries, gives us Duarte Lobo Masses: Responsories & Motets. In the English-speaking world, we hear relatively little Portuguese Renaissance music compared to works by composers such as Monteverdi, Pachelbel, Purcell, Corelli and Josquin. That makes this publication particularly welcome.

The choir channels the solemn spirit that seemed to move Lobo as he composed the eight Christmas Responses at the heart of this publication. The existing partbooks for this music are incomplete and the works have never been recorded; The tenor I part, for example, was reconstructed by the musicologist Jose. Abreu.

The album also includes two masses based on Francisco Guerrero’s motets, in which Lobo elaborated on the possibilities of counterpoint, as the liner notes explain, “often with amazing originality. They reveal a remarkable ability to manipulate and transform the material.”

Elaborate presentations and a balanced sound ensure a rich and intimate listening experience. The choir conveys both monody and counterpoint with fluidity and power, whether in four or eight voices. The album is available now from Hyperion Records.

The venerable one Tallis scholars Welcome the Christmas season with the ninth and final publication in your Josquin Mass cycle. The choir started the project back in 1986; It is now complete and includes all of the composer’s 18 masses. The new album contains, writes choir director Peter Phillips, “three of his greatest works. Together they form a perfect showcase for a genius who felt challenged to change every setting.”

In the Missa Hercules, Dux Ferrarie Josquin developed a complete mass around a melody that reflects the vowels in the name of the eponymous Ercole I d’Este von Ferrara, at whose court the composer worked at the beginning of the 16th century. The alphabetical game is just one of the ways Josquin JS Bach introduces. Another is the way he weaves the counterpoint around the main melody. The haunting first agnus, the extremely beautiful second and the deep six-part third bring this masterpiece to an impressive conclusion.

Missa d’Ung aultre amer, more compact and less elaborate, contains some exceptionally beautiful scripts, including many simple chord scripts that show that these Josquin Masses were much more than just intellectual-contrapuntal flash. “Josquin refused to do the same thing twice,” writes Phillips. “Like Beethoven in his symphonies, Josquin basically used the same line-up to create dramatically individual soundscapes every time he wrote for them.”

The fascinating melody of the second Kyrie of the Missa Faysant Regretz, for example, feels far removed from the solemn chords of “Tu solus qui facis mirabilia” from Missa d’Ung aultre amer and once again almost alien from the gently uplifting, glorious spirit of “Et incarnatus “by Missa Hercules Dux Ferrarie.

Although the voices are very balanced, some of them stand out clearly. It’s easy to imagine being at a live performance, which too many of us haven’t been able to for too many months. It is almost a miracle that the Tallis scholars completed their Josquin cycle in this plague year. No ensemble sings choral music from this period better than she does. Their mastery seems almost supernatural.

As the climax of their decades-long career, this album presents a climax in Renaissance choral music. But it would also be a wonderful introduction to Josquin, the music of the time, and the Tallis scholars (who, of course, are no strangers to Christmas music themselves). Like the Cupertinos album with never-before-recorded Duarte Lobo music, it would be a wonderful gift for a music-loving friend. It is available now from Hyperion Records.

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