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GRAMOPHONE (02/2016)
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Musique en Wallonie

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Reviewer: Fabrice Fitch


For this final instalment in its multinational Lassus series, Musique en

Wallonie turns to the Gramophone Awardwinning ensemble Vox Luminis. The ‘melange’ format, mixing pieces of various genres and formats, was well known to Lassus’s publishers and their public. The risk in recital (in common with the other discs in the series) is that the given ensemble shows itself more adept at certain genres than others, but because Vox Luminis are particularly adaptable, they largely avoid this pitfall.


Equally, what works and what doesn’t is a matter of personal taste. To mine, the choral approach adopted for most of the motets doesn’t really suit Lassus. The ensemble seem far more focused with a single voice to a part than with several, and they sound better still when doubled by an organ, as in Deus misereatur nostri and Domine, quid multiplicati sunt, both of which work wonderfully. The handful of French chansons are perhaps the most successful grouping altogether: Vox Luminis capture Lassus’s restrained melancholy very well (Sur tous regretz is particularly fine), but seem less assured when the text turns jocular or louche.


The curate’s-egg principle also applies to the Italian pieces: the smutty, Neapolitan-inspired O Lucia is dispatched with real verve but the more serious madrigals are nearly indistinguishable from the motets. The German selections are perhaps more uniformly successful: the playful suggestiveness of Tritt auff is nicely captured.


Finally, each disc of this set includes at least one example of whimsy that is peculiar to Lassus: here, Quid prodest stulto reflects on earthly folly to the recurring motif ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’. The decision to assign the ostinato to a single louder voice is an individual touch, though it draws attention away from the melodic incident in the other voices, which is particularly detailed. Vox Luminis don’t quite match the superlative levels achieved in later repertories but their best performances here are highlights of the set as a whole.


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