Arcadelt, Isaac, Mouton

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Arcadelt,Isaac,Mouton
LABELS: Etcetera
WORKS: Missa Noe, noe
PERFORMER: Henry’s Eight/Jonathan Brown
The idea behind this unusual collection, The Virgin and Christ-child, seems to be to gather together works from the 15th and 16th centuries loosely connected with Christmas – or, by extension, the Virgin Mary. Alternatively, though, some of these pieces can be heard as examples of teacher-pupil relationships (Jean Mouton taught Willaert who taught Arcadelt), or as demonstrations of the impact of Italian lyricism on profound Northern polyphony (Mouton, Isaac and Arcadelt each had connections with the Medici family in Florence.)


The disc opens with Mouton’s stunning double-canon motet Nesciens mater: the spacious and gracious performance here easily surpasses the rather hurried run-through (with instruments) on Munrow’s collection, The Art of the Netherlands (EMI). Next come some English carols. These are rather quavering and superficial renderings (especially of ‘There is no Rose’), but they are followed by a magisterial and sensitive architectural realisation of Isaac’s Virgo prudentissima. (Compare the recent bombastic version on the Eufoda label.) The centrepiece of the disc is Mouton’s motet Noe, noe and the Mass by Arcadelt based on it. Both are dubbed ‘world premiere’ recordings, but both works were first recorded in 1979 by Alejandro Planchart on Lyrichord (VST 6154), and the motet has had other recordings as well. Anyway, these present performances are the best. The exposed duet writing in the Mass leads to some rather bumpy bass singing but, in the motet, every phrase is full of life. Anthony Pryer