Guerrero, Victoria, Morales

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Guerrero,Morales,Victoria
LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Missa Surge, propera amica mea; Tota pulchra es Maria
PERFORMER: Orpheus Choir Munich, Lyra Ensemble/Gerd Guglhör
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 80780 2
Listening to this disc was like journeying back 30 years, to the days when more or less the only Renaissance polyphony one heard on disc was performed by choirs more suited to singing Mendelssohn’s Elijah. I exaggerate, but the Munich Orpheus Choir, founded by Gerd Guglhör, who also conducts here, is a relatively large group for this music, and of, presumably, amateurs. It is a fine choir, and sings robustly and with fine discipline. But its quality of sound is not quite what one associates with Renaissance sacred music these days. Guglhör makes effective use of tutti and solo contrasts in Francisco Guerrero’s Mass Surge, propera amica mea for six voices, and the instrumental contribution – the Lyra Ensemble’s flute, cornetti and (modern?) trombones – adds colour. But my problem is not simply with the size of the ensemble. The whole approach seems a little too dogged, too stodgy in texture, perhaps too pious and certainly insufficiently sensual and southern. Granted, this is a live performance, and what happens in concert cannot always be sensed on the resulting disc. On the other hand, there is also music that reaps some benefit from the grand approach, like Victoria’s eight-part, two-choir pieces ‘Ave Maria gratia plena’ and ‘Nigra sum sed formosa’, while Cristobal de Morales’s ‘Regina caeli laetare’ and Magnificat septimi toni, though realised far from ideally, also retain the essence of their greatness. Stephen Pettitt