Lassus/Gombert/Arcadelt

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Lassus/Gombert/Arcadelt
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Missa Triste départ; Missa Quand’io pens’al martire; Missa Vinum bonum; Vinum bonum; Triste depart; Quand’io pens’al martire
PERFORMER: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge/Stephen Cleobury
CATALOGUE NO: 444 335-2 DDD
Common ground here is the Missa Vinum bonum based, parody-fashion, on Lassus’s own drinking song/motet of the same title. Yet two performances could hardly differ more. Ex Cathedra mixes mature and young voices, giving their sound an excitingly distinctive cutting edge, sharpened still further by the addition of cornetts and sackbuts in the Mass. This credible, if not wholly proven, period practice builds into a truly majestic sound, and creates a timbral link between Lassus in Munich and his fellow Netherlanders and their successors in Venice.

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Clifford Bartlett’s helpful booklet notes suggest hearing the motet several times to internalise the source of the Mass and heighten the contrast between that sound- world and the interpolated unaccompanied motets and instrumental bicinia – simple two-part pieces. These expand the Mass into an extended programme which I found myself irresistibly drawn to hear in a single sitting.

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Cleobury take a more archival approach, with three parody Masses and their respective sources. The performance is more meditative – unaccompanied throughout, markedly slower, capitalising on the rich acoustic of King’s Chapel. If some of Ex Cathedra’s instrumentally-inspired incisiveness is missing, King’s all-male choir nevertheless creates a very beautiful and evocative sound. George Pratt