Orlande de Lassus was an undisputed master of all the vocal genres of the late Renaissance, from German Lied to Latin Mass. He was extraordinarily prolific, and this recording features the glorious polyphony of the Missa Amor ecco colei and Prophetiae Sibyllarum, one of his most celebrated works. With the latter’s extreme chromaticism and constant modulation, Lassus stretched the compositional boundaries of the time to produce one of the most important and advanced works to come from the sixteenth century.
With their immaculate and instinctive performance style, Stephen Rice and The Brabant Ensemble prove the perfect advocates for this challenging music. The ensemble’s mellifluous phrasing and luminous tone breath life into these complex and beautiful works.
“In his splendidly detailed sleeve notes, the group's director, Stephen Rice, makes a point of pressing Lassus's case for recognition at the expense of contemporaries such as Palestrina...The performances throughout are wonderfully persuasive, with nothing arch or affected in the way in which the texts are presented; expressively, music that is as highly wrought as any of its time is made to seem completely natural.” The Guardian, 28th July 2011 ****
“The Brabant Ensemble has a well-deserved reputation for the exploration of little-known msucial gems. They do not disappoint here; from among Lassus's 2000 works we are served up an enterprising smorgasbrod [sic] of familiar items mixed with the virtually unfamiliar...The Ensemble negotiates the difficulties of this Mass very effectively” BBC Music Magazine, September 2011 ****
“They certainly are astonishing in their harmonic daring, moving from C major via G major and B major to C sharp minor in the bat of an eyelid, and are wonderfully captured here by the suavely assured Brabant Ensemble under scholarly Stephen Rice...Listen and be moved.” The Observer, 21st August 2011
“If the Brabant Ensemble's response seems subdued compared with their joyous exploration of the Chirk Castle partbooks, that may be due to the music's own restraint. They don't go all out for pathos in Iustorum animae, as the Monteverdi Choir do, but stay within the character of their clean, corporate sound, and the programme itself says much about the intelligence behind Stephen Rice's direction (as well as the booklet notes).” Gramophone Magazine, October 2011
“the highlight of the disc and ultimate proof of the towering genius of Lassus is the Maundy Thursday motet Tristis est anima mea. It is, as Dr Rice says, 'one of Lassus's most dramatic narrative motets'. It is a work of utter genius and religious depth...I know of no other English vocal ensemble to match The Brabant Ensemble in Renaissance music...Altogether, a triumph” International Record Review, September 2011