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GRAMOPHONE ( Awards 2021 - 11/2021)
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Reviewer: Edward Breen

Regular readers will know that I hold Cinquecento in especially high regard so it will come as no surprise if I open by saying that this new album, their third to feature works by Jacob Regnart (c1540/45-1599), maintains their exquisitely high quality of both performance and progamme. The most famous of five musical brothers, Jacob (Jacques) Regnart was one of several Netherlanders to hold posts at the German Habsburg court, and his music at times reminds me of the sonorous contrapuntal density of Gombert (c1495-c1560); but, as Stephen Rice points

out, a much closer comparison can be made with Lassus (c1530/32-1594), both in terms of clarity of texture and especially when considering the variety and sheer quantity of output.

This new album opens with the rousing German Easter hymn tune Christ ist erstanden (‘Christ is risen’), which becomes source material for the Missa Christ ist erstanden with its confident, well-balanced Kyrie, which ingeniously folds the opening hymn phrase into an imitative texture. Cinquecento are clearly in their comfort zone and immediately find a sweet spot for optimal polyphonic momentum that also allows the phrases room to expand. The balance is wonderfully clear. Regnart’s fastermoving Gloria and Credo sections are much more varied and Cinquecento’s rhythmic precision brings out many delightful movements, including an appropriately stark atmosphere in the ‘Crucifixus’.

Missa Freu dich, du werthe Christenheit (‘Rejoice, O worthy Christendom’) offers a more bewitchingly tuneful texture reflecting the longer phrases of its model. The gentle unfurling of the imitative Kyrie phrases is magical on this recording; and listen out especially for a joyful countertenor moment in the Gloria at ‘qui sedes ad dexteram Patris’ (‘who sits at the right hand of the Father’) – it’s not called Ars Perfecta for nothing.

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