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“It’s one of very few discs of this repertoire I’ve been happy to play in its entirety, and then several times since. This is in part a tribute to Gombert … but also to The Brabant Ensemble and Stephen Rice … by encouraging an
unusually individual and carefully balanced vocal response, he avoids the pitfalls of relentless consistency and arrided elision … there is a welcome and (in this music) novel belief in the power of voices as voices … try the sopranos halfway through Hortus conclusus es for erotic Mariolatry at its
most disconcertingly sensual. Arise, make haste, as they sing, and hear this music”
“These 10 motets are notable for their richly glowing sonorities, their disciplined counterpoints, their intensity of expression and, most of all, their careful tailoring of music to text. There’s the darkly erotic
intensity of Hortus conclusus es, the angst-ridden, pentitential Tribulatio et angustia … the singing is meticulously balanced and blended, Stephen Rice shaping and pacing each work with exquisite judgement”
“The Brabant Ensemble’s exploration of the “forgotten generation” of composers between Josquin and Palestrina is reviving an abundance of unwarrantedly neglected sacred polyphony. Judging by this splendid selection
of motets, Gombert’s neglect is particularly flagrant. In penitential pieces, such as Aspice Domine and Tribulatio et angustia, his lavish use of dissonance within a smooth-flowing yet intricately imitative style creates an atmosphere of almost unbearably intense and bitter anguish, whether contemplating
a city laid waste or beseeching rescue from a foetid quagmire … these shapely and well-paced performances do full justice to Gombert’s outstanding talent”
“This is the first disc to focus on the core of Gombert, his motets. What we know of his troubled life and extant music suggests that he was not a 'Laetentur coeli' sort of composer, and so the opening Tribulatio et angustia is well chosen, being both one of the finest of them and setting the mood for the rest. Barely a minute has passed before the first of many dark spots of extreme and focused dissonance, yet such harmonic knots never tie up the line. Indeed it's one of very few discs of this repertoire you can happily play in its entirety. This is in part a tribute to Gombert, who went to the well so often and never returned emptyhanded; but also to the Brabant Ensemble and Stephen Rice, who researched Gombert's motets for a doctorate. Rice believes in a largely steady tactus, which certainly suits the reflective nature of these works, but by encouraging an unusually individual and carefully balanced vocal response, he avoids the pitfalls of relentless consistency (The Tallis Scholars) and arrided elision (one-per-part groups like Henry's Eight and the Hilliard Ensemble). There is a welcome and (in this music) novel belief in the power of voices as voices rather than instrumental simulacra: try the sopranos halfway through Hortusconclusus est for erotic Mariolatry at its most disconcertingly sensual. Arise, make haste, as they sing, and hear this music.”
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