Senfl: Missa Paschalis; Motets; Lieder

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Obsidian
WORKS: Missa Paschalis; Motets; Lieder
PERFORMER: Christoher Watson (tenor), Robert MacDonald (bass); Choir of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge; Quintessential/Andrew Lawrence-King


Ludwig Senfl (c1490-1543), thought to have been born in Basle, is known as the ‘Swiss Orpheus’. He became court composer to the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and was also a friend of Martin Luther. These nicely paced, well-tuned performances provide an excellent introduction to his range and style.  

For most of the items the Sidney Sussex choir is joined by the cornets and sackbutts of Quintessential. They add a creamy, warm patina to the sound, which is especially supportive in the motets. In some of the Mass movements, however, where some lines are played by instruments and other lines sung, the imitating parts can sound non-equivalent and the texture patchy.

Half the tracks contain secular pieces. Robert MacDonald (bass) is especially good in ‘Wohl auf’ and Andrew Lawrence-King’s harp version of ‘Ach Elslein’ is superbly delicate and winning. Curiously, the famous and bawdy ‘Im Maien’ gets rather prissy treatment.


Unfortunately for Senfl, the two most impressive works here are those he adapted from pieces by other composers – Ave Maria (based on Josquin) is given a tremendously impressive performance; and Quis dabit (based on Festa, but Josquin’s Mille regretz is clearly another influence), for the Emperor’s funeral, brings the disc to a reflective close. Anthony Pryer