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Polyphony of the Northern Renaissance

available at Amazon
Renaissance am Rhein, Singer Pur

(released on November 16, 2010)
Oehms OC 820 | 66'39"
The sounds of talented new (to me, at least) choral ensembles continue to reach my ears this year, from the talented English ensemble Stile Antico to the Boston-based Blue Heron to the German all-male ensemble Amarcord. Just as that last group was formed by former choristers from Leipzig, another group called Singer Pur was founded in 1991 by five former choirboys from Regensburg Cathedral. They made the right decision to augment the group with soprano Claudia Reinhard, which exposes the high male voices less (a good thing). The ensemble's latest CD is the fruit of a collaboration with the LVR-LandesMuseum Bonn, as part of Renaissance am Rhein, a large exhibition devoted to Renaissance art and music in the Rhineland. No one needs to convince me of the beauty of these things, but it is always good to have a demonstration of just how many worthy works are still out there to be discovered.

Limiting itself to the stretch of the Rhine from Aachen to the Netherlands, the group put together this program of little-known music from the 16th century (some possibly from the early 17th). Lassus is the only name you are likely to recognize, represented by a single piece, O mors, quam amara, in a version copied down in an Aachen choirbook. Far less familiar composers include Petit Jean de Latre, Nicolaus Zangius, Andreas Pevernage, Konrad Hagius, Johannes de Cleve, Jean de Castro, Johannes Mangon, and Martin Peudargent, that last one a wonderfully appropriate name for a musician. The music includes examples of complex Catholic polyphony (settings of the Salve regina and other traditional Gregorian texts, in alternatim and other types of arrangements -- Petit Jean de Latre's Qualis est dilecta mea is one of new favorite Marian motets), alongside more somber Protestant homophony (like Oh Herr dein Ohr mit gnaden) and decidedly non-sacred chansons and humorous songs (the German texts not so helpfully not translated into English in the booklet). Not a must-have disc, but worthy performances of repertory worth hearing.


Elena said...

I've been hearing so much about polyphony, it's very interesting! Another group to check out is Capilla Flamenca - I believe Alex Ross has one of their well-filmed videos on his site.

Anonymous said...

The "Singer Pur" set of Willaert's Petrarca Madrigals is a very fine set that deserves more exposure.