Pierre de La Rue, Johannes de Quadris

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COMPOSERS: Johannes de Quadris,Pierre de La Rue
LABELS: Gaudeamus
WORKS: Missa de sancta cruce
PERFORMER: The Clerks’ Group/Edward Wickham
CATALOGUE NO: CD GAU 307
The Clerks’ Group is renowned for its recordings of 15th- and 16th-century polyphony – particularly by composers of what is sometimes called the Netherlands School. Here the ensemble picks on a rather underestimated member of that pack, Pierre de la Rue, who served Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands for the Emperor Charles V.

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It was probably for Margaret, who had ‘a well-developed taste for the miserable’ according to the booklet notes, that La Rue wrote Considera Israel in 1506. This deeply moving setting of the biblical lament of David for Jonathan is beautifully presented here, with the sonorities breathing and relaxing in an entirely natural way. Less successful are the rather fast speeds in the Gloria and Credo of the Missa de sancte cruce: the energy seems artificially laid across the surface of the music, with the sopranos driving forward the lower voices who seem to struggle to keep up. This, though, is something of a blip, and there is plenty on this disc to delight us – including a superb performance of the motet Vexilla regis, which easily outstrips the rival version by Ars Antiqua of Paris issued on Naxos three years ago. Finally, the De Quadris Lamentations are a bonus; spare-textured but archaically evocative. Anthony Pryer