Pedro de Cristo (c.1550-1618)
Missa Salve Regina
rec. 2021, Basilica do Bom Jesus, Braga, Portugal
HYPERION CDA68393 
Until the arrival of this disc, the only recordings I had come across of music by this shadowy figure were on anthologies of Portuguese Sacred music such as ‘Music from Renaissance Coimbra’ (Hyperion CDA66735) recorded in 1994 by A Capella Portuguesa under a great expert on Portuguese music of this period, Owen Rees, and Masterpieces of Portuguese Polyphony Volume 2 recorded in 1991 by the Choir of Westminster Cathedral (Hyperion CDA 66512) It is good, therefore, to have an opportunity, via this wonderful choir, to hear more of the music of this composer, who was associated with the beautiful and ancient cathedral city Coimbra. It is even better that the choir here is under another musician who has researched the composer and edited these hitherto unpublished works from various, often obscure, manuscripts.
The sources are four manuscripts found in the library in Coimbra and a further three found in Lisbon. It has clearly been a labour of love to piece some of the music together, as several pages of these manuscripts have been mistreated or have faded over the last hundred or more years due to neglect. Toscano seems to imply that the music is only now being discovered; this is only partially true, as can be seen from the two recordings mentioned above. This is, however, the first disc to be completely devoted to Pedro de Cristo, and despite the fact that approximately 250 works are attributed to him, we read that curiously the Salve Regina is his only surviving mass.
The selected motets for this disc are almost entirely Marian; their style can be austere but also very lyrical with a yearning harmony resulting from regular suspensions. His counterpoint is often compact; as a result, the Gloria of the Mass and indeed the Agnus Dei are clearly focused and not at all prolix, but the part writing is often strongly imitative, even canonic, as heard especially in the Credo. The plainchant, which is used for alternate verses in the Salve Regina motet is clearly audible in the Mass across its four-part writing as in the opening of the Sanctus in particular. Cristo can write simply as well, as in the mainly homophonic Sancta et immaculata. Taking the richest and most expressive works here, I suggest that if you can, you first listen to some of the Beata viscera Mariae in five parts and the joyous Ave regina caelorum.
The only eight-part works are the Magnificat and the Ave Maria. How much Cristo was aware of developments in Italy we can only speculate, but the early baroque idiom is never used.
The excellent booklet essay by Toscano not only offers us the full texts and translations but also photographs of some the manuscript pages which are described in a second essay by Josť Abreu and Paulo Estudante. Hyperion has again divided the pieces up into no fewer than forty-two tracks and while I understand how useful this could be for teaching purposes and is especially useful in the mass where, for example, the Credo is given three tracks, I fail to grasp why short motets such as the two-stanza Stabat Mater and the even shorter Ave regina caelorum need to be divided.
I like this choir very much with their Italianate, open vowels, clear tone quality, precise intonation and immaculate diction. This is their third CD for Hyperion; I waxed lyrical about the singers when reviewing their recording of another Portuguese composer Duarte Lobo (Hyperion CDA68306 - review) in 2020, when I described their sound as ‘thrilling’. They have also returned to the basilica in Braga, the acoustic of which has been beautifully handled. Not only is this music wonderfully moving and uplifting but the performances are of outstanding quality.
1-6. Magnificat octavi toni [7.04]
7-10. Salve Regina [4.32]
11-24 Missa Salve regina [24.13]
25. Quae est ista [3.46]
26-29 Ave regina caelorum
30-31 Stabat Mater [3.25]
32-33. Regina Caeli [2.22]
34. Beata Dei genetrix [4.18]
35. Sancta et immaculata [3.28]
36-41. Beata viscera Mariae [2.58]
42-45. Ave Maris stella [7.53]
46. Virgo prudentissima [3.32]
47. Ave Maria [2.42]
Published: November 24, 2022