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GRAMOPHONE (10/2022)
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Reviewer :
Fabrice Fitch

I’ve long admired the Regensburg-based ensemble Singer Pur for their egoless music-making. Recent highlights are two sets (also on this label) respectively devoted to the sacred music and madrigals of Adrian Willaert, a composer supremely renowned in his lifetime, a fact which the discography is only now coming to reflect. (The madrigals are no longer available and deserve to be reissued.) By contrast, Ludwig Senfl’s discography has always been reasonably healthy, for all that his is hardly a household name. But unlike most recordings currently on offer, this one is evenly divided between sacred and secular. My only reservation concerns the choice of three pieces for which the ascription to Senfl is doubtful, when there’s so much music from which to choose; following that thought, the omission of his undoubted sacred masterpiece, the six-part reworking of Josquin’s famous Ave Maria … Virgo serena is a missed opportunity, for none of the existing vocal versions (Fretwork’s fine reading using only instruments) matches what these singers might have done with it.

For Singer Pur match their usual high standard, with immaculate balance, clarity and, in Claudia Reinhard, a soprano whose timbre and control of phrasing are especially pleasing. They are joined by the bowed and plucked strings of Ensemble Leones, whose viols are characteristically astringent. The secular music is perhaps more immediately catchy: the wonderful Das Gläut zu Speyer, a character piece in the mould of those of Janequin, recreates the bells of that town’s hallowed cathedral, and two sets are devoted to tunes that Senfl revisited many times (no fewer than seven in the case of Ich stund an einem Morgen). Any potential monotony is dispelled both by Senfl’s boundless invention and the ensembles’ judicious alternation of scorings. Of the sacred music, Media vita makes for interesting comparison with Gombert’s setting, and those unfamiliar with Ave rosa sine spinis are in for a treat: the insistent repetition of a point of imitation after the five-minute mark is a moment of modal weirdness to which the vocalists respond with singing of melting loveliness. And I must mention the sixvoice Verbum caro factum est, an elaborately splendid large-scale responsory. Senfl is a particularly endearing figure who undoubtedly deserves to be better known; this is an ideal introduction.




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