Collection: Mortuus Est Philippus Rex

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COMPOSERS: Cotes,de las Infantas,Escobedo,Lobo,Vivanco
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Music for the life and death of the Spanish king by Cotes, Vivanco, Escobedo, Lobo & de las Infantas
PERFORMER: Westminster Cathedral Choir/James O’Donnell
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67046

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This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Philip II of Spain – a historical peg on which countless new recordings, special editions and musicological discoveries have been hung. These two discs offer a cappella performances of music associated with Philip by two of our finest choirs.

Westminster Cathedral Choir present motets written in the King’s memory, including an acerbic setting of ‘Versa est in luctum’ by Sebastián de Vivanco, and the better-known, deeply poignant setting of the same text by Alonso Lobo. The main work on their recording is a newly edited Mass dedicated to ‘Philippus Rex Hispaniae’ by Bartolomé de Escobedo – fluid, occasionally somewhat meandering, music, though performed here with searing intensity.

As ever, James O’Donnell draws the highest quality from his singers, producing that acid, treble-dominated sound that has made this choir so distinctive. The Sixteen’s disc is an eclectic mix of English, Flemish and Spanish works from the time of Philip’s marriage to Mary Tudor.

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The choir gives a candid and affecting performance of Tallis’s Mass Puer natus est nobis, though the highlight of the disc is a fleeting but profound expression of spirituality – John Sheppard’s ‘Libera nos’. The Sixteen’s sound is distilled, ethereal – hard to imagine a more sublime performance. Kate Bolton