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COMPOSERS: Richafort
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Requiem; Motets
PERFORMER: Huelgas Ensemble/Paul Van Nevel
There is a curious mismatch between the extraordinary popularity of the works of Jean Richafort (d c1547) among his contemporaries, and the scanty biographical information we have about him. He seems to have been born in Flanders, worked for the French kings in the early 16th century, and then retired to Bruges. What is clear is that he was a really superb composer, and no work illustrates this more vividly than his awesome Requiem for six voices, written in commemoration of Josquin des Prez. It is in this work that the Huelgas Ensemble is at its finest – poised, richly tuned, warm-toned and with some meltingly profound bass-singing. Only in the Offertory is there a slight hint of strain, of unwieldiness, from this choir of 13 singers.


The motets and chansons are a different matter. The pace at which the harmony changes in these works is faster, and the interplay between the voices is busier. Parts of the Salve regina are reduced to a noisy bustle and the quirky, witty textures of the drinking song, ‘Tru, tru, trut avant’, are lost in the long reverberation of the churchy acoustic. Even so, these are minor weaknesses in a recording of major revelations. Anthony Pryer