Texte paru dans: / Appeared in:
GRAMOPHONE - Awards Issue - 2012
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0034571179599 (ID240)

Jean Richafort, (c.1480-c.1547),
 "Requiem" et oeuvres sacrées par / and sacred music by Després, Gombert, Vinders,
 Ensemble Cinquecento

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Appréciation d'ensemble / Overall evaluation :

Reviewer: Fabrice Fitch

Cinquecento explore Richafort and his mentor Josquin

It’s hard to dispute the notion that Jean Richafort wrote his sumptuous Requiem as a memorial to Josquin, so shot through is it with references to the older master. The Huelgas Ensemble’s recording of 2002 elicited a fairly typical reaction — admiration for the spellbinding beauty of their sound tempered by frustration at Van Nevel’s tricks (doubling the cantus firmus lines at the octave). Cinquecento aren’t given to such mischief and their sound has a magic of its own. The poise of the opening movement is sped up a notch in what follows, which carries both technical risks ( Richafort’s trademark bursts of semiquavers sometimes lack definition) and aesthetic ones: there is less a sense of monumentality here than in the Huelgas’s reading, and (alone of all the movements) the Offertory is a little unfocused. All the same, this ought to win Cinquecento new supporters and not just among those who found those Van Nevel-isms maddening: the build-up from reduced to full scoring in the verse of the Gradual (the section beginning with the words ‘Virga tua’), for example, is beautifully managed.

The disc opens with the two Josquin songs from which Richafort audibly quotes, and concludes with other laments on his passing. These are all very well done (barring a slight blip in the Appenzeller at the words ‘ille occidit’) but the recording’s other focal point. Josquin’s Miserere, is a bit of a curate’s egg: the closing section is most impressive but, like other ensembles, the singers seem unsure what to make of the awkward, near-static ostinato verses of the beginning. But if my reaction seems more muted than for their past recordings, bear in min that this is the first Cinquecento disc for which all of the music has been recorded before (often several times), so the reviewer is bound to listen differently. Listeners who have enjoyed their previous outings won’t be disappointed.

Selected comparison:

Huelgas Ens, Van Nevel (10/02) (HARM) HP/1C90 1730

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