Magnificat, Marian Antiphons, Missa Salve regina
Hyperion CDA68393 72:44 mins
‘Who is she that rises like the gathering dawn? Beautiful as the moon, special as the sun, awesome as an army drawn up for battle.’ Adoration of the Virgin Mary reached its apogee in 16th-century Spain and Portugal, and this antiphon from a Mass by Pedro de Cristo (1550-1618) is typical. He was born in Coimbra, one of Europe’s most prestigious centres of musical activity, and was an exceptionally versatile musician: a noted keyboardist as well as adept on the harp, bassoon and flute. He didn’t enjoy the worldly success of his better-known contemporaries Duarte Lobo, Manuel Cardoso and Filipe de Magalhães, and none of the 250 works attributed to him were published. Roughly handled and incompetently archived, it is largely thanks to the tenacity of the Cupertinos ensemble and their leader Luís Toscano, we can now savour them in their proper form.
Cristo’s polyphony is unshowy but always graceful, and the church acoustic in which this selection of antiphons plus a Mass has been recorded perfectly sets off the unadorned freshness of the voices. When the music’s decorous emotional restraint relaxes, passion shines through: poignantly in the Stabat Mater, and with exquisite pain in the Cuius animam gementem (‘Whose groaning soul’) which follows. Cupertinos – and Hyperion – are to be congratulated on bringing this radiant music to light.