Gombert: Missa Media vita; Media vita in morte sumus; Salve regina; Anima mea; O crux, splendidor cunctis; Quam pulchra es; Musae Iovis

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Gombert
LABELS: EMC
ALBUM TITLE: Gombert
WORKS: Missa Media vita; Media vita in morte sumus; Salve regina; Anima mea; O crux, splendidor cunctis; Quam pulchra es; Musae Iovis
PERFORMER: Hilliard Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: 981 8792
Nicolas Gombert served in the chapel of the Emperor Charles V in Spain and ended his career around 1560 at the Cathedral of Tournai. He was famous enough in his day for his works to be printed by most of the major European publishers, and this disc suggests why. Take for example the Salve regina, a kind of fantasia based on plainsongs, or the final section of the Credo of the Missa Media vita with its rhythmic acceleration: few composers write in this style with this much flair.

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The Hilliard Ensemble glides through this kind of music superbly, keeping (for example) the pearl-like vocal entries of the Kyrie of the Mass absolutely purely tuned and rock steady. Sometimes the recorded sound can be a little hard and close (as in the Gloria), and in the motet Media vita the constant leaning on the dissonances becomes almost a mannerism. This last piece also appears on a Gombert recording from Naxos (reviewed in February 2006) where it lacks the surface polish of the Hilliard’s presentation, but somehow seems more interesting as a piece of music. Anthony Pryer