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GRAMOPHONE (02/2020)
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CPO 777989  

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

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Reviewer: Fabrice Fitch

Rore’s Missa Praeter rerum seriem, which conceals a hidden tribute to his patron, Ercole II d’Este, has been recorded several times, but so far as I’m aware this is the first outing on CD of the Mass that explicitly names him. Given the quality of its sister work, it is high time it was, and Weser-Renaissance complement it with a generous selection of motets. Several are based on well-known chants, and the Pater noster has a nod or two in Josquin’s direction (most obviously at the close). Like his madrigals, it is connoisseur’s music, and none the worse for it.

Those who recall Weser-Renaissance’s very fine forays into Schütz are in for a surprise: for some years they have delved occasionally into Franco-Flemish repertory, with perhaps more mixed results, critically speaking. (Unsurprisingly, the cast of characters has changed a great deal over 25 years.) Here, they opt for adult males, using soloists in the motets and two voices on a part in the Mass. The dark sonority reflects the composer’s liking for dense textures; so too does an impassive quality to the performances themselves. The singers shape and phrase their lines sensitively, too (try the opening Ave regina caelorum). Yet, somehow, there’s an unresolved feeling that is hard to pin down. It may be the recording, which feels a touch distant and emphasises the ensemble’s darker hues; or perhaps the matching and blend of voices and intonation, which falls just short of perfection, so that the ensemble fails to ring as sympathetically as it might. Much as repeated listening may confirm these impressions, ultimately the deepened appreciation of the music wins out.

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