Regnart

COMPOSERS: Regnart
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Regnart
WORKS: Missa Super Oeniades Nymphae; Stetit Jesus; Lamentabatur Jacob; Quod mitis sapeins nulli virtute secundus; Inviolata etc

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PERFORMER: Cinquecento

CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67640
For devotees, the dearth of recordings of leading 16th-century Habsburg court composer Jacob Regnart and the vocal expertise of Cinquecento make this disc worth acquiring. For casual listeners, Regnart’s honeyed writing and the blandness of these performances may quickly pall.

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Regnart (1544-1599) excelled at key aspects of the polyphonic writing of his generation: the varying of textures, the animating of words through rhythm and antiphonal exchanges, and, above all, the shaping of music into rhetorical units within balanced structures. But the finely crafted statements of this sacred music largely omit discord, chromatic inflections and contrapuntal tricks. To add interest, Cinquecento could have interpreted the music daringly; instead it does the opposite, avoiding strong contrasts of dynamic or tempo and standing aloof from the words. This lack of imagination may be due to inexperience – this is the group’s second disc – or to piety towards its goal of transmitting lost masterpieces of the Habsburg empire. The repertory is glorious, important and little known; the sextet’s vocal technique is superb, in solo performance as well as ensemble; and the disc’s production values are outstanding. Excellence of craft cannot, however, replace the outpouring of soul that is missing from composition and execution alike. Berta Joncus