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The Brabant Ensemble under their director Stephen Rice presents music for the dark time of the year. Its latest disc of 16th-century polyphony features the extraordinary compositional gifts of Clemens non Papa, put to the service of the Requiem mass and a selection of motets on a pentitential theme. Within this general aspect of solemnity can be found countless shades of expression and emotion.
Despite the popularity of the composer’s music during his lifetime, Clemens is a somewhat marginal figure today and many of these motets have never been recorded before. Yet, listening to this music today, one is immediately enthralled by its opulence and harmonic lushness, very different from the occasionally sterile polyphony of some of the composer’s contemporaries. The Brabant Ensemble’s fresh, uncluttered and sincere performances truly bring this glorious music to life.
Clemens: Missa Pro Defunctis - 1. Introitus, "Requiem Aeternam"
Clemens: Missa Pro Defunctis - 2. Kyrie
Clemens: Missa Pro Defunctis - 3. Tractus, "Absolve, Domine"
Clemens: Missa Pro Defunctis - 4. Offertorium, "Domine Jesu Christe"
Clemens: Missa Pro Defunctis - 5. Sanctus & Benedictus
Clemens: Missa Pro Defunctis - 6. Agnus Dei
Clemens: Missa Pro Defunctis - 7. Communio, "Lux Aeterna"
Clemens: Tristitia & Anxietas
Clemens: Vae Tibi Babylon & Syria
Clemens: Erravi Sicut Ovis A 5
Clemens: De Profundis
Clemens: Vox In Rama
Clemens: Peccantem Me Quotidie
Clemens: Heu Mihi, Domine
“The disc opens with his subdued Requiem Mass. Many groups would have tackled this with exaggerated dynamics, squeeze-boxing every phrase for maximum impact. Here, though, we get absolute calm, good tuning and chordal singing that glows from within...the Ensemble does full justice to the brilliant Tristitia et anxietas, and the De Profundis is thrilling.”
“The Brabant Ensemble grips immediately with the pure serenity of its immaculately tuned, perfectly balanced sound...the singers' sumptuous tone at full volume is overwhelming...These are no bored, deadpan monks. One senses everywhere excitement and pleasure in this underperformed repertoire.”
27th January 2011
“the gravely beautiful requiem mass in four parts that's the main work on this Clemens disc is very contained and often rather understated, qualities that the Brabant Ensemble capture perfectly...the sound of the recording from Merton College Chapel, Oxford, is a little lacking in immediacy, though nicely seraphic.”
3rd February 2011
“his Requiem seems a plain and severe thing, especially in the beautiful but very restrained performance by this excellent young choir. Too restrained, I first thought, but on a second hearing the tiny expressive inflections became moving. Give these performances time and they’ll reward you richly.”
“The Brabant Ensemble sing [the Requiem] with an admirable clarity, assisted by a very transparent acoustic and recorded sound image...Clemens and this recording are both worth hearing.”
“The singing thorughout is as refined and expressive as one would wish from a small (11-12 voices) and relatively youthful ensemble, under the direction of an intelligent director for whom clarity of diction and mellifluousness of sound are of the utmost importance...this is another fine release by an ensemble...[who are] bringing before the public little-known repertoire, the worth of which it passionately believes in.”
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