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Fanfare Magazine: 43:3 (01-02/2020) 
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CPO 777989  

Cypriano de Rore: Missa “Vivat Felix Hercules” and Motets Product Image

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Reviewer: J. F. Weber

Cipriano de Rore (1516–1565) is better known among the first generation of madrigalists, but his sacred music has not been neglected on records. This Mass was first recorded by Alejandro Planchart in 1982 on Musical Heritage Society MHS 4980, one of his last recordings. Another work, his Missa Praeter rerum seriem, has been recorded by Peter Phillips (Fanfare 18:1), Paul McCreesh (25:4), and Paul Van Nevel (26:5). Both Masses were composed at Ferrara and dedicated to Ercole II, the grandson of the dedicatee of the famous Missa Hercules dux Ferrariae of Josquin des Prez. Maestro there from 1546 to 1559, he was a successor to Josquin, whose motet Praeter rerum seriem provided the cantus firmus for the latter Mass. Recently Stephen Rice recorded his other two Masses and three motets (37:3). (One more Mass, Missa Vous ne l’aurez pas, is early, dubious, and unrecorded.)


The composer’s entry in The New Grove (2000) is outdated; it has been revised for Grove Music Online (oxfordmusiconline.com). Born in a town west of Brussels, he was living in Brescia in 1542. The court of Ercole II, where he served for 13 years, was his most important post and marked his most productive years as a composer. He visited his homeland in 1558 and returned there at the end of his service in Ferrara, but went to Parma in 1560, then San Marco in 1563 (for less than a year), then back to Parma for his last year. At San Marco he succeeded Adrian Willaert, who had also served in Ferrara for 10 years.


This program begins with Ave regina caelorum, recorded by Peter Phillips; Agimus tibi gratias is on a recent disc directed by Guy Janssens that also duplicates Missa Doulce mémoire; Plange quasi virgo is on Paul Van Nevel’s disc. The first two and two others (below) were on Cordes’s earlier recording of 16 of the composer’s motets for four to seven voices (21:6). He repeats the Agimus tibi gratias from that disc, where it was prolonged by performance on instruments before singing it accompanied; here the simple unaccompanied motet is heard. Ave regina caelorum is also duplicated; in the earlier version the seven voices were divided among solo singers and players. The same approach was taken in Pater noster dividing the five voices. The only unaccompanied motet on the earlier disc, Da pacem Domine, is repeated here anew. The other four motets appear to be first recordings. On this disc he uses no instruments.


The Mass movements are separated somewhat logically (Kyrie and Gloria together, Pater noster between Sanctus and Agnus Dei). While we’re on the subject of motets of Cipriano de Rore, I have to wonder why Hesperiae cum laeta has not been recorded since an obscure Miroslav Venhoda collection in 1974. It was published by Gardano in Venice in 1549 in the Third Book of Motets. In 1986 it was the subject of an elegant book with 11 color plates by Edward E. Lowinsky, Cipriano de Rore’s Venus MotetIts Poetic and Pictorial Sources, that was distributed to every member of the American Musicological Society by the publisher.

Cordes has shown more interest than most in de Rore, and he seems to have modified his approach to the composer. The two contrasting discs give us a fair impression of a composer whose motets are still not as well known as his madrigals. There are 25 motets just in the great illuminated Munich manuscript of 1559 alone, not to mention four books of motets published in Venice. (The parchment manuscript is called “pergament paper” in the translation of the notes.) It is ironic that the notes mention the anniversary year of 2015 (when the recording was made) as an occasion for renewed interest in the composer, although it has just been issued in 2019. This is one of the finest recordings of de Rore on the market today.


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