COMPOSERS: Francisco Guerrero
ALBUM TITLE: Missa Super flumina Babylonis
PERFORMER: Ensemble Plus Ultra; Schola Antiqua; His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts/Michael Noone
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 922005
This interesting disc contains three recently found hymn settings by Guerrero, the newly discovered plainsong music which he used as a basis for his Missa Super Flumina, and a premiere recording of the splendid mass itself. The plainsongs are sung by the Schola Antiqua (experts in the Spanish chant style), the polyphony by Ensemble Plus Ultra and the controversial instrumental doublings are provided by the accomplished Sagbutts and Cornetts ensemble.
The choir has a warm, strong sound and usually manages to produce a balanced trajectory within a piece as a whole (Regina caeli). Its speeds are fast, so some works (Ave virgo) come across as rather matter of fact, and the Osanna of the Mass is little short of a gallop. There is some splendid soprano singing in the Benedictus, but the recording tends to blur the sound and it is never easy to hear the words. Some plainsong items (In exitu) benefit enormously from the ethereal but intricately detailed singing style of the Schola Antiqua. The instrumentalists provide atmosphere even if their ad hoc interventions in some pieces (Celsi confessoris) create liturgical confusion. In sum, an enjoyable glimpse at some glittering treasures of the Golden Age of Spanish music.