Gombert: Qui colis Ausoniam; Salve regina; Media vita in morte

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Qui colis Ausoniam; Salve regina; Media vita in morte
PERFORMER: Henry’s Eight/Jonathan Brown
Nicolas Gombert (c1495-c1560) was one of Josquin’s greatest pupils. His style – with its piquant use of false relations – is distinguished by music of striking expressive power and originality, which this anthology reveals with brilliance and flair. In the eight-part Credo, exquisite balance in the antiphonal exchanges and breathtaking dynamic control underline Gombert’s deep awareness of textual significance. Shapely performances of the relevant plainsong chants – effectively exploiting the reverberant acoustic of the ante-chapel at Trinity College, Cambridge – place the three motets, Qui colis Ausoniam, Salve regina and Media vita in morte, in context. Of these, the Eight’s shining performance of the ingeniously constructed Salve regina – a quodlibet on seven Marian texts and their plainsong melodies – is a remarkable tour de force that tellingly reflects the words ‘Diversi diversa orant’. By contrast, the Eight builds layer upon layer of suitably dark tones in the portentous ‘Vae, vae Babylon’ to create a chilling atmosphere. Ultimately, though, Lugebat David Absalon provides the most alluring example of the hypnotic potency of Gombert’s music. Few will be able to resist the rich opulence of these beautifully recorded, exceptional performances. Nicholas Rast