Monday, 16 May 2016

Lassus - Prophetiae Sybillarum etc - Brabant Ensemble/Rice

Rating: 4/5

Not one of the Brabant Ensemble's best

This is a good recording of Lassus, but perhaps not a great one.  I have loved some of The Brabant Ensemble's recordings in the past, but some of their more recent discs, this one included, have failed to move me in the same way.

The principal work here is Prophetiae Sibyllarum, Lassus's venture into chromaticism, which can be a somewhat challenging listen.  I have two very fine recordings of it by The Hilliard Ensemble and De Labyrintho, both of which capture the dark, atmospheric nature of the music which I don't think the Brabants quite manage to do here.  They sing with their customary technical excellence and a good blend and balance, but don't really generate a sense of what the music is about.  This is due at least in part to the recording which is rather distant and very resonant, while I think it needs a more intimate sound.

The Magnificat, motets and mass setting which male up the rest of the disc are a good deal better, with a more appropriate sound and, to me anyway, considerably more engagement from the singers.  The motet Tristis est anima mea in particular is exceptionally beautiful and shows what the Brabant Ensemble are really capable of.

There's nothing wrong with this disc as such, but if you're looking for a recording of Prophetiae Sibyllarum I'd recommend the Hilliard Ensemble (who couple it with a wonderful recording of Lassus's Requiem) or De Labyrintho before this, and I also think that the Brabant's recordings of Phinot, Crecquillon, Manchicourt and Clemens non Papa are more worthwhile than this one.  It has its moments, but I can only give this a somewhat qualified recommendation.

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