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Palestrina: Missa Ecce ego Johannes
and other sacred music
Still thought of today as the grand master of the polyphonic style, Palestrina was highly regarded and much published in his lifetime. His output comprises one hundred and four firmly attributed Masses, over three hundred and seventy-five motets, sixty-eight offertories, at least sixty-five hymns, thirty-five Magnificats, four (possibly five) sets of Lamentations, and over a hundred and forty madrigals.
The six-voice Missa Ecce ego Johannes presented here is based on an unknown model. The text ‘Ecce ego Johannes’, from the Book of Revelation, is used for the chapter (capitulum) at Vespers on All Saints’ Day, and it appears elsewhere (in the Sarum books, for example) as an antiphon at Matins for the same feast. The character of Palestrina’s setting, however, suggests that it might well have been based on a polyphonic model. It is a powerful, confident work on a par with the Missa Papae Marcelli and Assumpta est Maria—just listen to the very first notes of the Kyrie.
The motets that accompany the Mass show a more festive side to Palestrina, with exuberant melismatic writing. All of these pieces deserve to be better known and there can be no choir better equipped to show the world the beauty of this music.
“Yet another superb disc from Westminster Cathedral … many consider not only the finest cathedral choir in Britain, but one of the best in the world.
The sound is quite glorious” Goldberg
“For sheer beauty of sound this recording is unsurpassed” Gramophone Magazine
“Even among the Westminster Cathedral Choir’s superb records this disc stands out. Perfect chording and ensemble, natural and musical phrasing,
spot-on intonation and a glorious tonal blend, make this issue one to treasure” Penguin Guide
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Allegri: Miserere & the music of Rome
The Cardinall’s Musick finished 2010 in a blaze of glory with their Gramophone Recording of the Year award for the last volume of their Byrd Edition. Only the second time in thirty years that an Early Music recording has received this prestigious accolade, it is a fitting tribute to the soaring artistry of the group and their director, Andrew Carwood.
Their eagerly-awaited next disc features music from late sixteenth-century Rome and ranges from Allegri’s Miserere, surely the best-known and best-loved work of this period, to a rarely-performed or recorded oddity. Seven Roman musicians came together (or were brought together) to write a Mass-setting where they each contributed different sections. The resulting work, the twelve-voice Missa Cantantibus organis, is a tribute both to Cecilia (the patron saint of music) and to Palestrina. The seven composers each take themes found in Palestrina’s motet of the same name and use them as the starting point for their new compositions. Palestrina himself is among the seven, with Giovanni Andrea Dragoni, Ruggiero Giovannelli, Curzio Mancini, Prospero Santini, Francesco Soriano and Annibale Stabile being the other six. All seven composers were prominent maestri in Rome and most appear to have had contact with Palestrina either as choristers or pupils.
“Carwood and his Cardinall's Musick [give] the piece perhaps its finest recorded performance. Using female sopranos as he does is of course itself inauthentic, but Carwood is vindicated by their bell-like clarity and thrilling projection...THe triumphant success of this disc is much enhanced by the vividness of the recording.” Mail on Sunday, 30th January 2011 *****
“What this disc shows...is that they all deserved a better fate than being buried in a list of Palestrina's younger colleagues. It also shows that a burning commitment can lift music off the page and give it real life...this is all really exciting stuff and should be heard by anybody who cares about music of the late-16th century.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2011
“Carwood's feeling for line and architecture underpins this disc's sublime sounds and divinely spun phrasing...These performers capture the creative confidence of Rome's composing community in the decades either side of the 16th century's turn...It's hard to imagine how its contents could be better served on disc.” Classic FM Magazine, March 2011 *****
“The drama and flamboyant colours of Baroque Rome's art and architecture and wonderfully present in this reconstruction of its sacred music. This recording's breadth of moods, devices and styles is refreshing...More importantly, the vocalists use declamation to emote, transporting the listener from sorrow to transcendent joy.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2011 *****
“This is a really engaging trip to Rome, ancient and modern, familiar and rare, full of changing textures and styles matched by pleasingly varied performances.” International Record Review
“The Cardinall’s Musick perform the [Missa Cantantibus Organis] with their usual refinement.” The Telegraph, 11th March 2011 ****
BBC Music Magazine
Choral & Song Choice - March 2011
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