Lassus: 3 Cantiones sine textu

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Lassus
LABELS: Ricercar
WORKS: 3 Cantiones sine textu; Quid trepidas; Haec quae ter; Pulvis et umbra; Fertur in conviviis; Qui regit astra etc
PERFORMER: Choeur de Chambre de Namur la Fenice/Jean Tubéry
CATALOGUE NO: RIC 283

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This disc romps through the Magnum Opus Musicum, a vast posthumous collection of Lassus motets. The selection magnificently shows the composer’s many moods, divined through both his music and his letters to his patron, the Archduke of Bavaria, a source Jean Tubéry knows well.

A strange kinship to Haydn emerges as we hear Lassus absorbing styles, enriching them, and turning them to musical wit. The composer’s freewheeling imagination encompasses counterpoint, choral declamation, word-painting and vocal scoring to reveal a persona erudite and devout, yet impish.

Key to Lassus was the forces he used. The Bavarian court was one of Europe’s most prestigious, known particularly for its instrumentalists. This performance luxuriates in the textures, vocal and instrumental, that Lassus exploited. Homophony, one of the composer’s favourite tools for articulating rhetoric, is realised to stunning effect.

Tubéry creates an informed and imaginative combination of voices and instruments, producing sumptuous colours. He neatly captures musical gestures encapsulating word meaning, and smoothly executes interlocked imitation. Nor does he shy away from being outré when this seems called for, as in musical puns of Super flumina Babylonis. The musicians consistently surprise with their verve, teasing subtle musical details out of the verses. 

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Apart from its vague and uninformative sleeve notes, this disc’s production values are outstanding, resolving perfectly the challenge of balance among diverse forces. It richly earns its title. Berta Joncus