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From Darkness into Light (Brumel)

Musica Secreta/Deborah Roberts, Laurie Stras (Obsidian)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Complete Lamentations of Jeremiah for Good Friday
Musica Secreta/Deborah Roberts, Laurie Stras
Obsidian CD719   73:05 mins

Until recently it was thought that only fragments of Antoine Brumel’s setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah survived, but Musica Secreta’s co-director Laurie Stras has just unearthed, in a Florentine library, 17 formerly missing verses. Recorded here for the first time, the complete Lamentations for Good Friday are built up from cell-like motifs that are interleaved, varied and hypnotically repeated, creating a monumental work. This performance imagines them being sung in a 16th-century nunnery, so Brumel’s original low-voice scoring is transposed for female singers, with an organ and a viol providing the lower parts. The resulting sound is radiant but it lacks the tenebrous quality that better reflects the plangent Passion Week text.

Along with the new discovery is a rosary of works copied by the same scribe as the Brumel in an anthology belonging to two Florentine nuns. There are some lovely, anonymous settings of familiar Marian hymns, but the highlights are Josquin’s Recordare virgo Mater and Compère’s Paranymphus salutat virginem. The all-female vocal ensemble produces a delicate, unforced, vibrato-less sound, but the timbre is inevitably somewhat unvaried, and the uniformity of effect is enhanced by taking each piece at the tread of a heartbeat.

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Kate Bolton-Porciatti