Palestrina: Canticum canticorum Salomonis

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COMPOSERS: Palestrina
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Canticum canticorum Salomonis
PERFORMER: Pro Cantione Antiqua/BrunoTurner
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66733 DDD
No two discs could more clearly reflect legitimate extremes of period performance. The ‘Motets for five voices’, as Palestrina first advertised The Songs of Solomon, are spiritual madrigals, chamber music for devotional use. The poems reflect the eroticism of madrigals, allegorically applied to the Virgin. Pro Cantione Antiqua sing one-to-a-part, voices matching without losing the individuality that clarifies textures and imitations. Textures are transparent, tuning well-nigh immaculate and, by selecting different voices from the ten available, colour varies subtly among the 29 pieces.

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In total contrast is Westminster Cathedral Choir’s Victoria, heard as from the congregation, yet crystal clear in their reverberant setting. The motet Trahe me, post te, a masterpiece of canonic ingenuity, is the basis for a parody mass. John IV of Portugal described Victoria’s disposition as ‘naturally sunny… he never stays downcast for long’ – reflected here in a dancing triple-time Hosanna and a strong sense of major/minor key. Outstanding is the Salve regina for two choirs, one high, the other dark and low, combining at climaxes in an all-enveloping stereo grandeur. George Pratt