ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Mastersoftheroyalchapel, Lisbon
WORKS: Liturgical music by Magalhães, Carreira, Coelho,
PERFORMER: A Capella Portuguesa/Owen Rees; Stephen Farr (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66725 DDD
Hyperion has an extraordinary gift for detecting neglected repertoire which leaves us wondering how we ever lived without it. Their Portuguese series, capitalising on Lisbon’s elevation to European Cultural Capital this year and Gulbenkian Foundation support, reveals a wealth of gorgeous sound, spiced with the kind of lateral inventiveness which often characterises music on the cultural fringe.
A Capella Portuguesa is directed by two British researchers into Iberian Renaissance sacred music. They animate their musicology with performance, often using liturgical contexts to reveal its original function – here a High Mass for the Nativity of the Virgin, as it might have been performed in Lisbon’s Royal Chapel in about 1635. The core is a Mass by Filipe de Magalhães, full of harmonic surprises and contrasts, from sedate counterpoint to thrilling syllabic declamation. The choral sound is warm, quite English – though I’m told the invitation to record came from the Portuguese themselves. The 16 voices draw beautifully shaped lines, alive yet serene, in this wonderful repertoire by composers several of whom are otherwise totally unrepresented on record. All Souls Chapel in Oxford provides an ideal ambience, captured in finely balanced sound.
Another disc from A Capella Portuguesa (Hyperion CDA 66735, Z121) contains earlier, no less beautiful ‘Music from Renaissance Coimbra’. Don’t miss, too, a related recording from Pro Cantione Antiqua (Hyperion CDA 66715, Z040), including the strangely anachronistic Lamentations of Diogo Dias Melgás: vivid Baroque colours superimposed on the fading heritage of Renaissance polyphony. George Pratt