COMPOSERS: de Rore,Gerarde,Josquin,Lassus,Mouton,Orto,Senfl,Vaet,Willaert
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Le Chant de Virgile
WORKS: Works by Josquin, Mouton, Orto, Senfl, Willaert, Lassus, Gerarde, Vaet & de Rore
PERFORMER: Huelgas Ensemble/Paul Van Nevel
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901739
Although everybody talks about the Renaissance as the rebirth of the Classical cultures of Greece and Rome, nobody (until now) has bothered to gather together musical settings made of ancient texts by Renaissance musicians. Full marks, then, to the ever-resourceful Paul Van Nevel for this amazing collection, which contains not only six settings of Dido’s lament from Virgil’s Aeneid, but also versions of Horace, Catullus and Anacreon, as well as a lone lament on a biblical story.
Most of these pieces have never been recorded before, and we get a variety of approaches here. Josquin’s superb polyphonic version of Dido’s lament is movingly presented with voices alone. The Senfl pieces, however, have an experimental voice-plus-instruments texture, though in which part the ‘tune’ is to be found is debatable — Van Nevel goes for the bass in ‘Non usitata’, and the treble in ‘Petti, nihil’. Also, the echoing acoustic and slightly disjunctive interpretations can give a falsely ethereal and disembodied character to the music: compare, for example, this version of ‘Lamech Judith’ with the coherent Ferrara Ensemble performance of 1995 (on WDR Arcana). Even so, this ingenious disc takes us back to the heart of Renaissance music. Anthony Pryer