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Guerrero: Missa Congratulamini mihi
and other works
The award-winning Cardinall’s Musick have finally completed their Byrd series, and now look outside the British isles to a composer who had to wait for a long time for his genius to be fully recognised, although he was well known to his contemporaries, and produced a considerable output. Guerrero was born in 1528 in Seville, the city that was to remain at the centre of his entire life. His early training came from his brother Pedro and it is thought that he was a chorister at the magnificent Cathedral in Seville with its sumptuous music foundation. Guerrero himself states that he studied with Morales, and it was Morales who recommended the young musician for the post of maestro de capilla at Jaén Cathedral in 1546 – a short-lived appointment.
The main work on this disc is the gloriously sunny and joyful Missa Congratulamini mihi. Based on an Easter motet by Crecquillon (also recorded here), it is full of the voluptuous exuberance of the Paschal season. The five-part texture, with two treble parts, adds to the shining sound.
Also included are a number of Easter motets. Maria Magdalena et altera Maria and Post dies octo are highly descriptive, narrative works, highly contrasted in mood and texture. The four other pieces on this disc show various facets of Guerrero’s mastery. Dum esset rex (in honour of Mary Magdalene) is similar to a spiritual madrigal whilst the eight-part Ave Maria is a sonorous double-choir plea to the Virgin. The two settings of Regina caeli (the Marian antiphon to be sung during Eastertide) both use a plainsong cantus firmus as their starting point. The older sounding, four-part version uses a minor-mode motif whilst the eight-part setting uses the more traditional plainsong melody woven into an exuberant and joyful Easter statement.
“[Cardinall's Musick] encounters little difficulty in these well-written pieces...the singers are at their balanced best in Guerrero's Ave Maria for double choir, and their confident, perky attack on the rollicking Osanna of the Congratulamini Mass is delightful.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2010 ****
“This latest addition to Guerrero's discography is especially to be welcomed for his fine Mass on a motet by Thomas Crecquillon...Like its model it is a joyful, extrovert piece, to which Andrew Carwood's singers respond with an equal measure of buoyancy and vigour.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2010
“All are delivered with the combination of superb ensemble, and perfectly characterised vocal lines that is the persistent hallmark of this outstanding group; the sound is rich, full and gently resonant.” The Guardian, 6th August 2010 ****
“Carwood has nurtured the group to its current status as a leading exponent of Renaissance music, retaining the essential quality of individual vocal timbres that contribute to a refined, characterful mix and with a polish that is second to none...the entire disc, with various shorter pieces as complements, is captivating in its fluency and expressive power.” The Telegraph, 13th August 2010 *****
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Treasures of the Spanish Renaissance
Recorded in 1985, this seminal album from Westminster Cathedral Choir and David Hill is a true jewel in the crown. These are among the the first performances in modern times of the divine compositions of Francisco Guerrero and Alonso Lobo, and there is also a Magnificat by Sebastián de Vivanco, a composer barely known even now. These recordings date from the peak of a golden era in the history of this most illustrious of choirs, and have yet to be bettered.
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Ave Virgo Sanctissima
and Gregorian chant: Regina coeli
Gery de Ghersem was a Franco-Flemish composer of the late Renaissance whose works were mostly destroyed in the Lisbon earthquake and fire of 1755. This solitary surviving complete work, Ave Virgo Sanctissima, a mass for 7 voices in polyphonic style. It is based on the "hit" motet of the same name by Guerrero.
“The characteristic turns of Guerrero's motet are everywhere recognisable but Ghersem adds extra voices to the scoring of his model. The work shows off Eric van Nevel's ensemble at its best: an organ is included and the resulting texture often had me thinking that there might be more instruments involved...Ghersem's Mass may seldom be recorded again, so we should be grateful that is has been done so well.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2011
(also available to download from $10.00)
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Sydney Chamber Choir & Orchestra of the Renaissance, Michael Noone