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GRAMOPHONE (02/2020)
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Reviewer: Edward Breen

This disc celebrates and contextualises the music of Hermann Matthias Werrecore (c1500-c1574), maestro di cappella of Milan Cathedral for nearly three decades. A key figure in the post-Josquin generation and one of many Oltremontani (from over the Alps) working in northern Italy, his sacred works have not previously been recorded, despite the quality and variety of his settings and their clear influence by and homage to Josquin. Alongside six of his motets are also first recordings of works by Dominique Phinot (c1510-c1556) and Gaspar van Weerbeke (c1445-c1516).

The smooth, honeyed sound of Siglo de Oro is largely due to the soft and clear sheen of their radiant sopranos. As an ensemble they resemble The Cardinall’s Musick both in tone and in their approach to the architecture of larger-scale motets such as Josquin’s Alma redemptoris mater/ Ave regina caelorum: they choose unhurried tempos but maintain a clear forwards direction in phrasing. Most fascinating on this album are the contrasting settings of Inviolata, integra et casta by Werrecore and Josquin, which show a huge attention to detail in performance.

Despite the clear, generous tone of this ensemble, there are several impassioned moments where the middle voices use a wide vibrato: in solo sections of Werrecore’s rather monumental setting of Popule meus in particular, this serves only to defocus the musical texture. Yet there are also moments of great beauty that show a tight control of ensemble singing: the heartfelt homophonic passages in Weerbeke’s Ave regina caelorum, mater are deliciously contrasted with the busier polyphony on this disc. Exploring lesser-known repertoire in the Milan choirbooks, a work which also shines through is Gaffurius’s O sacrum convivium, memorable for its gently unfurling opening phrases. To portray effectively such ranges of polyphonic textures is really exciting: this is a hugely impressive disc in both programming and performance.

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