Choral works for Mary Magdalene by Guerrero and Lobo

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COMPOSERS: Francisco Guerrero; Alonso Lobo
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Guerrero • Lobo
WORKS: Guerrero: Maria Magdalene et altera Maria; Lobo: Missa Maria Magdalene; Lamentations; Regina caeli; O quam suavis est, Domine
PERFORMER: Choir of Westminster Cathedral/ Martin Baker
CATALOGUE NO: Hyperion CDA 68106


If you have heard of the Spanish composer Alonso Lobo (1553-1617) at all, the chances are that it is for his tremendously beautiful motet Versa est in Luctum – the subject of several recordings, none more ravishing than that by the group Tenebrae (Signum, 2011). Here are some more substantial pieces: a Mass published in 1602, based on a motet by his teacher Guerrero; a set of Lamentations which survive only in a copy from 1772; and two motets, one of which (Regina caeli) has had its missing text supplied and recorded here for the first time.

It is not an easy task for this large choir to negotiate the intricate polyphony, and the middle-distance resonance of the recording does little to aid clarity of texture or the projection of the words. Westminster Cathedral Choir is at its best in the large-scale drama of the Credo of the Mass, and its contrasts between the opening declamation of belief, a more subdued presentation at ‘Et incarnatus est’, and the triumphalism of ‘Et resurrexit’. The singers’ robustness is less appropriate in Guerrero’s account of the visit of the Marys to Christ’s tomb (the motet Maria Magdalene), though they discover a truly moving spaciousness in O quam suavis est. As usual with this choir, the upper voices have a focus and control sometimes lacking in the lower ones. Overall, though, a convincing introduction to a neglected composer.


Anthony Pryer