These musical outpourings on mourning and loss from the Golden Age of Franco-Flemish polyphony include Josquin des Prez’s celebrated motets Nymphes, nappés and Nymphes des bois, the latter written on the death of Ockeghem, and, as the disc’s centrepiece, Jean Richafort’s Missa pro defunctis. Musically inspired by Josquin, this is a majestic, expansive requiem. Its dark sonorities, measured tread and long-breathed lines, interlacing a web of references to music from the ancient and recent pasts, invoke melancholy reflections of the transience of things. Yet the shades of mourning are illuminated by moments of light and serenity – glimpses of a sublime hereafter.
Cinquecento captures the work’s meditative quality to profound effect, the all-male vocal ensemble creating an aptly plangent sonority and a tone of high seriousness. Using just six singers, one to a part, allows for lucid, detailed textures and chamber-music intimacy, yet, by exploiting their chest voices and the acoustic’s natural reverberance, the group can also produce all the opulence and bloom of a much larger ensemble. Throughout, the singing is exquisitely controlled: arching polyphonic lines are beautifully shaped, textural contrasts subtly enhanced, never over-dramatised, and the voices – silken and effortless – seem to be suspended in amber. The overall effect is cathartic.