Crecquillon

COMPOSERS: Crecquillon
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Crecquillon
WORKS: Missa Mort m’a prive; Oeil esgare
PERFORMER: Brabant Ensemble/Stephen Rice
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67596
The dearth of modern recordings of Thomas Crecquillon is hard to account for. This favourite composer of Emperor Charles V was prolific, widely heard and influential at least until 1600. Stephen Rice and The Brabant Ensemble now show us what we’ve been missing. Crecquillon excelled in the craft of imitative writing. His melodic imagination was rich – both compact and drawn-out statements are equally convincing – and his dramatic timing acute. The disc’s programme is designed to show his musical expression of the grief of Charles V over his wife’s death, a reading of the Mass Mort m’a privé for which the sleeve notes provide compelling evidence. Rice realises this narrative through the rhetoric implicit in the score; his nuanced shaping of line and unexpected dynamic and tempo shifts capitalise on Crecquillon’s skill at text-setting. Rice is also adept at sustaining tension through long crescendos, a talent crucial in rendering Crecquillon’s sometimes sprawling movements. The ensemble provides the vocal expertise demanded by Rice’s approach, sustaining a robust sound and solid intonation through extended lines.

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The vocalists’ sound is somewhat monochrome, and the inner voices are occasionally lost, the latter the result of a vibrant acoustic from which not even the best engineering can always rescue middle lines. These are however minor quibbles in the face of the great service rendered by this revisiting of Crecquillon’s legacy. Berta Joncus