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GRAMOPHONE (01/2020)
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Antoine Brumel: From Darkness Into Light Product Image

Code-barres / Barcode : 658592071924


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Reviewer: Edward Breen

A tale of two Florentine manuscripts copied by the scribe Fra Antonio Moro leads the intrepid musicologist Laurie Stras to create another superb album with Musica Secreta. The first manuscript yields the complete Lamentations for Good Friday by Antoine Brumel (c1460-c1512), previously recorded by The Tallis Scholars (Gimell, 9/92), when only the verses beginning with letters Heth and Caph were known. Stras’s discovery almost doubles the length of the work and delightfully complicates its function. Falling, now, into five sections, liturgical performance seems unlikely, pointing instead to devotional use. Musica Secreta begin rather carefully, the almost equal part-ranges suiting their mix of female voices as singers’ personalities delicately delineate vocal lines. The work, and indeed the performance, really begins to reveal its true richness at the first refrain, ‘Ierusalem convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum’. Supported by the gentle uplift of Claire Williams’s organ-playing and the sinewy tone of Alison Kinder’s viol, the  sopranos find a sweet resonance as they lean into the phrases without losing overall blend. The result is a wonderfully radiant sound that allows individual voices to ring through.

The second manuscript yields a collection of choral music for the entire liturgical year of a nunnery, much of it anonymous. Musica Secreta select eight motets including works by Josquin, Compère and the scribe himself. Of these, two anonymous works stand out: Jesus autem cum ieiunasset, for its direct portrayal of Jesus’s hunger after fasting, and the closing Salve regina, for its luscious web of imitative polyphony. Again, the equal registers suit this ensemble so well: frequently they create soft swirling textures around points of imitation coloured by the timbres of their voices. It’s warm, nimble and compelling throughout. As so often with Musica Secreta, the meeting of inspired musicology with passionate and committed performance generates something way beyond the sum of its parts.

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