Sunday, 28 February 2016

de la Rue - Missa cum iucunditate - Henry's Eight

Rating: 5/5

Beautiful music, excellently sung

This a really excellent disc of very beautiful music, beautifully sung. The mass setting here is one of about thirty which survive by Pierre de la Rue, and shows why his music has received far more attention in the last few years. It is beautiful, passionate and very skilfully composed with de la Rue's distinctive, slightly spare style very much in evidence. Interposed with the mass movements are motets by Josquin, Ockeghem, Willaert and Clemens non Papa, including the latter's sublime setting of Pater peccavi. It's a really enjoyable and satisfying programme.

The performances are truly excellent. Henry's Eight are an all-male ensemble with top lines taken by countertenors. This gives a rich, full sound which suits the music extremely well. Technically impeccable, they also show a real empathy with the text and have a lovely blend while preserving the clarity of individual lines. It's a flawless performance which brings out the real greatness of some of the music here. (It's fascinating, by the way, to compare this Pater peccavi with the excellent recording by the Tallis Scholars who sing with high sopranos in the top lines . They are different experiences, but both are wonderful.)

The recorded sound is excellent and the notes good, if a little spare, with full texts and translations. It's a very fine disc in every way, and wholeheartedly recommended.

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