De Rore

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Missa Praeter rerum seriem; Schiet’arbuscel; Se ben il duol; Dissimulare etiam sperasti
PERFORMER: Huelgas Ensemble/Paul van Nevel
By any standards Cipriano de Rore’s seven-voice Mass Praeter rerum seriem, composed in Ferrara between the late 1540s and late 1550s, is an ingenious piece of music, at once a parody Mass (based on a motet by Josquin) and a cantus firmus Mass (on a tune originally set to a text in honour of de Rore’s employer, Ercole II d’Este). But it’s not just clever. The Mass is deeply touching, too, a work that essentially expresses human feelings. The desire – and the ability – to express the self makes de Rore one of the greatest and most influential composers of the high Renaissance.


It’s given a stunning performance at the heart of what must count as one of the finest discs of Renaissance music to have come my way. The Huelgas Ensemble’s director, Paul van Nevel, achieves a perfect balance between the emotional and the intellectual, allowing us to wallow in some luxurious sounds, but maintaining textural clarity and a gentle, unforced impetus. Tuning and ensemble are well-nigh impeccable.


The other pieces are no less impressive in status and realisation. There are the harmonically daring madrigals Schiet’arbuscel and Se ben il duol (works that impressed Monteverdi, the excellent notes inform us), the gloomy-textured Calami sonum ferentes and the stunning Virgilian motet Dissimulare etiam sperasti, where de Rore imposes no bounds upon himself, simply reacting to the text. But the scene is set by the opening work, the gorgeous eight-voice chanson Mon petit cueur. This slowly unfolding love madrigal on the simplest of texts would surely melt the most resistant of hearts.