Lassus: Lamentationes Jeremiae Prophetae; Missa pro defunctis; Vide homo

COMPOSERS: Lassus
LABELS: Signum
ALBUM TITLE: Lassus
WORKS: Lamentationes Jeremiae Prophetae; Missa pro defunctis; Vide homo
PERFORMER: Collegium Regale/Stephen Cleobury
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD 076
Most of these works date from the 1580s. They were written when Lassus was at the court in Munich and are magnificent, mature masterpieces. The Lamentations are his set for five voices, but we only get the Maundy Thursday group here, not the complete run through to Holy Saturday. Also, the four-voiced Requiem Mass is on a smaller scale than his other settings, but no less profound for that. The two motets ‘In monte Olivete’ and ‘Vide homo’ are a great bonus, and were widely admired in the 16th century (and later).

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The Collegium Regale is a choir of 14 male singers from King’s College Cambridge. In the Lamentations Stephen Cleobury forces an almost organ-like effect from them – a strong, relentlessly sustained sound, with plenty of swell but not much inflection, and not much real sense of lamentation. The Requiem Mass is altogether different. There is still the full sound at climaxes (in the Sanctus, for example), but the Introit is given a quietly magical ending and, in the verse of the Gradual (‘Virga tua’), we are treated to a sparkling display of virtuosic but balanced singing. The recording ends with ‘Vide homo’, a work Lassus composed just three weeks before his death; its reflective tones finally manage to evoke some inward quality from the choir. Having said all that, there are very few recordings of these pieces, and so we must be grateful for these clear, musical performances sustained by some rock solid singing. Anthony Pryer