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GRAMOPHONE (12/2022)
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Reviewer :
Edward Breen


It is a deep pleasure to hear this ensemble flourish. Since winning the 2019 Gramophone Early Music Award it has become increasingly obvious that the singers of Cupertinos and their musicologist-director Luís Toscano have a unique take on the golden age of Portuguese polyphony, and this is only further strengthened by this new release of Marian works by the extraordinarily under-recorded Pedro de Cristo (c1550-1618). But this recording is much more than a programme of musical treasures, it is also a milestone for Cupertinos: the arrival of a more confident, robust sound and, crucially, new-found rhythmic drive.


All of this is most noticeable in the opening eight-voice Magnificat. Unpublished in Cristo’s lifetime, it’s a meaty and well-crafted work with energetic double-choir textures and great splices of attention-grabbing homophony reminiscent of Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629). Cupertinos work these contrasts: after much antiphony, the verse ‘Et misericordia eius’ is a delicate snow-flurry of upper-voice, imitative polyphony sounding bright and delicate with a stylish cadence foreshadowed by a sultry rallentando. Cristo’s music is served up verse by sumptuous verse in the cavernous acoustic of Bom Jesus, Braga.


One of the strongest points about this ensemble is their balance of inner voices – altos sounding consistently strong in their lower ranges and tenors spinning light, untroubled top notes – so that it’s hard to tell which is which at times. This strong core to their sound is part of their confident persona: in the four-voice Missa Salve regina the equal pitch entries on ‘Et iterum venturus est’ repeatedly hit their mark with the insistence of a darts champion. This core also stabilises the sopranos’ pretty flutter and balances the rich basses. I could go on. As if the musicological discoveries were not enough, I’m now quite bewitched by this glorious Iberian sound world.

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