COMPOSERS: La Rue
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Early 16th-century Spanish & Flemish songs & motets
PERFORMER: Orlando Consort
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907328
In 1502 Philip the Fair of Burgundy travelled to Toledo where he was sworn in as heir to the Castilian and Aragonese thrones. He took with him the famous Burgundian chapel choir, headed by Pierre de la Rue, and there followed five months of church services, banquets, dances and chivalric entertainments. This wonderful selection from the surviving material is skilfully varied and coherent in spite of being based on no single celebration or ceremony.
La Rue emerges as the most accomplished composer, and the Orlando Consort seems most at home in his style – the effortless, polyphonic lines of his Missa Nunca fué peña mayor, for example, are most beautifully presented. Among the Spanish composers, only Peñalosa can match the Burgundian expertise, and the Credo from his Missa L’homme armé receives a particularly subtle and moving performance. Elsewhere, as in the secular love song ‘A la caça’, the performances, though slick, can be slightly too constrained. And, in the opening duets of ‘O desolatorum’, the usual homogeneity of the voices breaks down with one pair of singers employing vibrato and the other not. The recording nicely captures the individuality of the voices as well as the interplay between them. Anthony Pryer