WORKS: Mass for the Nativity
PERFORMER: Orlando Consort
CATALOGUE NO: MET CD1002-01 ADD (distr. Complete Record Co)
The music of Josquin, Isaac and Obrecht is familiar to many music-lovers today, but that of their contemporary Loyset Compère is, by comparison, rarely performed. Yet, at best, Compère can equal his rivals, and buried amongst his 50 or so songs are some real gems.
The thoughtfully planned programme offers a cross-section of his output: from esoteric Latin motets to melodious French love songs; and from brief, light-hearted Italian frottole, to an extended motet cycle, used in place of the movements of the Mass, lasting nearly 20 minutes.
Compère was most at ease in the chanson, yet these works are now the most problematic to interpret. The Orlando Consort adopts the now well-established theory that secular music as well as sacred was ideally performed by voices only; but how can one ignore the hundreds of paintings of this period that depict singers accompanied by instruments? That said, the virile, characterful singing on this recording suggests that the members of the consort are trying to break away from the typical English a cappella sound. Given the diversity of the repertoire, they shouldn’t be afraid to experiment further. Kate Bolton