LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Ferrabosco
WORKS: Psalm 103; Peccantem me quotide
PERFORMER: Huelgas Ensemble/Paul van Nevel
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901874
Alfonso Ferrabosco originally came from Bologna, but settled in 16th-century England as a court composer (and probably spy), where he was much admired. Very few of his surviving 200 works have ever been recorded before, and so we are again in Paul van Nevel’s debt for a welcome act of musical discovery and advocacy. Once heard, it is not easy to forget the astonishing vocal leaps in Alfonso’s setting of Extendems caelum, nor the dark glitter emanating from the depths of his In Nomine I for viols.
The Huelgas vocal ensemble has many years of experience behind it and generally copes well with this intricate fare. The basses are particularly fine in the motet Peccantem me quotide, and the opening madrigal (in motet style), Dolci ire, is given a warm, churchy sound. This approach and acoustic, though, does not really help in the quicker, dance-like pieces – the initially pleasing lilt of Bruna sei tu soon becomes hesitant and weighty; and, at the opening of Psalm 103’s final section, the hurried exclamations of ‘Cantabo domino’ collapse into a rather generalised hubbub. Even so, these are works that are certainly worth hearing, and these performances manage to please much of the time. Anthony Pryer