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GRAMOPHONE (08/2021)
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Reviewer: Edward Breen

Heinrich Isaac (c1450-1517) is one of Josquin’s greatest contemporaries. He had a glittering career working for Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence and then Maximilian I in Vienna, and alongside the towering achievement of his Choralis Constantinus his Masses and motets always catch my attention. Missa Wohlauff gut Gsell von hinnen is an intriguing work: written during his early years in Vienna, it is based on the popular song ‘Comment peult avoir joye?’ (‘How can one have joy whom fortune opposes?’), which is also performed here in Josquin’s four-voice setting from the early 1490s. Isaac had already written a four-voice Mass based on this song during his time in Florence but for the six-voice version heard here he revisited, reordered and expanded many of the sections of that earlier work to make a much larger-scale setting that is both rich and intricate.

Throughout this album Cinquecento are at the top of their game. Stylistically speaking, I would suggest similarities with The Hilliard Ensemble; the rich meld of lower voices creates a stable core to their performances and the subtle individuality of their voices allows for polyphonic details to be heard clearly at all times. Their countertenor, Terry Wey, is superb throughout, bringing a graceful ease to the top line. They have chosen to record in a generous acoustic which, despite warming their sound, does not obscure any of the finer details.

The Mass is particularly attention-grabbing since it comprises many sections for three or four voices which are so skilfully managed that the full six-voice textures, when they occur, feel like a warm embrace. What I admire most from Cinquecento, though, is their sense of polyphonic momentum and on this album in particular they find a perfect balance of long-range phrasing with surface detail. The result is a sonically beautiful performance that holds my attention.

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