ALBUM TITLE: Morales en Toledo
WORKS: Et factum est postquam; Eripe me; Ave maris stella; Sacris solemniis; Urbs beata Jerusalem
PERFORMER: Ensemble Plus Ultra/Michael Noone
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 922001
For this historically important disc, Michael Noone has uncovered a large number of pieces written by Morales during his two years at Toledo Cathedral from 1554. The 14 items here, all first-ever recordings, are magnificent proof that, far from the composer’s creativity waning, as was previously believed, he was at the very height of his compositional powers – still ‘the light of Spain in music’ as a contemporary described him.
Both performance and recording do full justice to the music. The heavenly acoustic of St Jude-in-the-hill in London creates a fine sense of spaciousness without veiling the Ensemble’s glorious transparency in contrapuntal lines, and their shimmering sonority of immaculate tuning on sustained cadential chords. The voices, fresh and uncluttered, create distinctive, independent lines in polyphony, from the dark, relatively low register of ‘Et factum est’ (track 3) to the alternating monophonic chant and high-voiced counterpoint of the Palm Sunday hymn ‘Gloria laus et honor’ (track 9). Best of all is the final six-part setting of the haunting hymn ‘Ave maris stella’, editorially restored with the help of flashlight behind the parchment pages and two other copies to confirm scoring and textures of missing verses. An essential addition to any collection of Renaissance sacred polyphony. George Pratt