Collection: The Passion Story

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Dufay,Isaac,Josquin,Loyset Compère & Obrecht,Tinctoris
LABELS: Metronome
WORKS: Set by Tinctoris, Dufay, Josquin, Isaac, Loyset Compère & Obrecht
PERFORMER: Orlando Consort
CATALOGUE NO: MET CD 1015

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The Orlando Consort has won many a prestigious prize for its recordings of medieval and Renaissance polyphony, and this, its last offering on the Metronome label (it is now contracted to DG), shows why. Using singers like the tenor Charles Daniels, whom I happen to know has perfect pitch, helps this one-to-a-part group achieve impeccable intonation. But it seems perfectly in tune with the music in other ways too.

It’s difficult to imagine its 15th-century counterparts producing a sound as clear and well balanced, a sense of phrase as rounded. And for once there’s no sense of strain or monotony in the countertenor lines – Robert Harre-Jones has a voice of silken liquidity. The music is a nicely varied selection on the disc’s Passiontide theme, ranging from Johannes Tinctoris’s Lamentations and two settings of the Easter sequence Victimae paschali, by Dufay and Josquin, to Heinrich Isaac’s relatively pithy settings of the Propers for Mass on Easter Day, from his massive collection of Propers for the year, Choralis Constantinus.

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There’s also Jacob Obrecht’s enveloping, richly scored processional Salve crux, Dufay’s hymn Vexilla regis and Loyset Compère’s devout Crux triumphans, a lovely piece looking forward to the expressive directness of the new half-millennium. One star off for the over-closeness of the recording. Stephen Pettitt