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Cleve • Vaet: Missa Rex Babylonis etc

Cinquecento (Hyperion)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
CD_CDA68241_Cleve

Cleve • Vaet
Cleve: Missa Rex Babylonis; Carole qui Veniens; Es wel uns Gott genedig sein; Laudate Dominum; Timete Dominum; Crod quod redemptor; Carole cui nomen; Vaet: Rex Babylonis
Cinquecento
Hyperion CDA68241   69:39 mins

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For over ten years now the group Cinquecento has been specialising (as its name suggests) in music from the 1500s. More specifically they have done much to resurrect composers who worked at the Habsburg Court in Vienna – Guyot, Monte, Schoendorff and now Johannes de Cleve (d1582). It is valuable to have these dark corners of musical history illuminated.

The first thing to say is that these singers are always nicely in tune and effectively blended, especially in the slower movements of the Mass where they strongly project the chordal colouring in the Qui tollis and perfectly intensify the false relations in the first Agnus. Cleve does as a rule keep all voices singing all the way through so that there is little respite from the unyielding texture. This means the vocal blending tends to turn into a solid wall – an amorphous effect exacerbated by the lack of clear consonants in the projection of the texts (Carol qui veniens) and some missed opportunities to highlight particular voice parts (for example the tenor part in Es wel uns Gott which caries the chorale tune). Also in that work and elsewhere (Laudate Dominum) although each vocal line is presented musically the singers seem rarely to work together to decide on a collective shape for the whole piece. The later works by Cleve (Carole cui nomen) are more interesting as is Vaet’s motet Rex Babylonis  – though it might have been better to place the latter before Cleve’s Mass which is based on it.

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Anthony Pryer