From the Imperial Court: Music for the House of Hapsburg

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Clemens,Crecquillon,De la Rue,Gombert,Isaac,Josquin,Lobo,Morales,Senfl,Tallis
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: From the Imperial Court: Music for the House of Hapsburg
WORKS: Morales: Jubilate deo; • Crecquillon: Andreas Christi famulus; • Tallis: Loquebantur variis linguis; • Josquin: Mille regretz; • Senfl: Quis dabit oculis; • Gombert: Magnificat I; • De la Rue: Absalon fili mi; • Gombert: Mille regretz; • Clemens: Carole magnus eras; • Lobo: Versa est in luctum; • Isaac: Virgo prudentissima
PERFORMER: Stile Antico

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This enterprising disc brings together many pieces written for events in the courtly life of the 16th-century Hapsburg dynasty, from Maximilian I (d1519) to his descendants Charles V and Philip II of Spain. Moreover, these monarchs employed the finest musicians in Europe, so we have here a series of really impressive compositions. 

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The Stile Antico singers are familiar with this repertory and anything requiring superb technique is already in place – they are always in tune, and the vocal blending is seamless, as witnessed, for example, by the wonderful interweaving of voices in Clemens non Papa’s Carole magnus, or the angelic pliability of the duetting in Isaac’s Virgo prudentissima. As for interpretation, the choir is at its most nuanced in the two settings of Mille regretz. But Tallis’s Loquebantur is too brisk for us to relish the exquisite harmonic clashes, and their approach to cadences tends to be rather standardised. This could be something to do with not having a conductor as such: compare, for example, their polished but ‘solid’ performance of Lobo’s Versus est with that by Tenebrae directed by Nigel Short (Signum Classics, 2011). The SACD sound is good though the churchy acoustic sometimes obscures the words. Anthony Pryer