COMPOSERS: Ciconia,Clemens Non Papa,Du Tertre,Dufay,etc,Lassus,Rogier,Willaert
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Renaissance of the Spirit
PERFORMER: I Fiamminghi/Rudolf Werthen, Currende/Erik van Nevel
CATALOGUE NO: CD-80521
It seems curiously perverse to present Lassus by transferring several vocal pieces to instruments. Although an occasional 16th-century practice, absent words turn musical reflections of their meaning into abstract painting, and the quintessential vocal sonority of the age is replaced by strings, wind and brass. Yet surprisingly, this throws into relief the close connection between Lassus and the contemporary Venetian avant-garde – the silken textures of trombones and the stereophonic dialogue of many of I Fiamminghi’s transcriptions vividly recall Gabrieli.
Among the ‘contemporaries’, Currende sings a Credo by Johannes Ciconia (who died over 120 years before Lassus’s birth). Its bright major-key spirit, transparent textures and carefree harmonic nuances make a refreshing contrast to the sensuous counterpoint of the high Renaissance.
The sheer sound of both ensembles is breathtaking, aided perhaps by its vaunted ‘Direct Stream Digital’ technology. Currende create a glorious sonority in an ‘Ave Maria’ by Clemens non Papa, a deeply reverberant acoustic bathing it in a sense of other-worldliness. In a pair of Parisian courtly dances by Du Tertre, I Fiamminghi sculpts phrases strongly, throwing the music into high relief.
Despite reservations about presentation, I can barely fault the performance – the ‘Renaissance of the Spirit’ if not wholly the ‘Spirit of the Renaissance’. George Pratt