WORKS: Missa ‘L’homme armé’
PERFORMER: Huelgas Ensemble/Paul van Nevel
CATALOGUE NO: SK 68258
Ever since the late Seventies, Paul van Nevel has delighted us with an endless succession of discoveries and surprises – music from the French court at Cyprus, the Paris songbook of Johannes Heer, and so on. Here are three more, though they surprise in different ways.
Almost nothing has ever been recorded by Pipelare (d. c1515). though he was a major composer whose works found their way into the repertoire of the Sistine Chapel. The nine and a half minutes of Vray dieu d’amours is, for a simple song, an amazing and entrancing essay in sustained chordal writing, beautifully projected here. But the star of the show is the Missa l’homme armé with its astonishing Agnus Dei for growlingly low voices, always clear and controlled on this recording. The Le Jeune songs are something of a disappointment: these intense, slightly slow, sectionalised performances miss the spirit of works such as ‘Revecy venir’ and ‘Voicy le verd’, sonorous though they are. The final disc is a treat. Ancient villancicos are interspersed with the modern, urban Portuguese fado – songs which mingle melancholy and desire. Who could resist the smokey tones of Beatriz da Conceição and António Rocha, the tense interjections of the guitarra portuguesa, and the tiny, vicarious thrills of a language that sounds like a lemonade bottle being slowly unscrewed? Anthony Pryer