Morales: Motets

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Gaudeamus
WORKS: Motets
PERFORMER: Consortium Carissimi/Vittorio Zanon
Though his biographical details are sketchy, Morales’s early reputation was remarkable. His music was sung from Angola to Mexico and by 1600, a century after his birth, it appeared in over 700 prints. All the more reason therefore to welcome these motets, most here given world premiere recordings. Many are on dialogue texts often articulated by Morales himself – for instance, sudden homophonic chords highlighting ‘kill him’. Consortium Carissimi intensifies the drama by adding instruments, a practice supported by contemporary pictorial evidence. A chamber organ enters and retires creating a vivid sense of the disciples in disarray at Jesus’s words in ‘In illo tempore dixit…’. Elsewhere instruments take over (‘intabulate’) all the vocal lines, following Morales’s own examples, or create a polyphony of voices and instruments. The most effective has solo soprano repeating the haunting phrase ‘Virgo Maria’ above baritone and lute, later alternating with a second distant soprano, a yet more ethereal sound. One motet is by Clemens non Papa, previously misattributed to Morales, its sonority spine-chilling with four voices, lute, organ and two trombones. Balance is sometimes organ-dominated, and the booklet has errors (tracks reversed, text missing), but this is a refreshingly imaginative introduction to virtually unknown music of the highest order. George Pratt