The highly descriptive language of the Lamentations of Jeremiah has been an inspiration for a multitude of composers since the middle ages. The emotional character of the text defines a generally sombre mood. However, the four different settings on this disc reveal regional variations which the Huelgas Ensemble underlines in excellent performances, atmospherically recorded in a warm, naturally resonant acoustic.
This group presents a robust, finely detailed portrayal of the terrible desolation described in Massaino’s powerfully dramatic score, with touching grief poignantly set off by the gentle exhortations for Jerusalem’s conversion that end each section. Van Nevel’s singers may seem overpowering beside the Tallis Scholars’s serene account of Robert White’s Lamentations, but their passionate involvement in this music is irresistible. Elsewhere, their dark-hued instruments and gritty male-voice homophony in Orto’s Lamentations (contrasting starkly with the brighter shades in White’s composition) eloquently communicate this narrative’s inconsolable plaintiveness.
Ultimately, mellifluous singing in Lassus’s elaborate treatment of the Hebrew letters and sensitivity to the composer’s illustrative word-painting (as in the overlapping contrapuntal waves that represent the sea in the second section and the low-register coloration of darkness in the third one) bring this appreciation of the Lamentations to an impressive climax. Nicholas Rast