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Paradisi Portas: Music from 17th Century Portugal
Duarte LOBO (c.1565-1646)
Audivi vocem de cælo [2:10]
Manuel CARDOSO (1566-1650)
Kyrie and Gloria, from Missa Paradisi portas [10:46]
Obra de falsas cromáticas de 1° tono* [4:00]
Manuel LEITÃO DE AVILES (d.1630)
Tract: Adjuva nos [1:59]
Manuel CARDOSO (1566-1650)
Credo, from Missa Paradisi portas [8:33]
Duarte LOBO (c.1565-1646)
Pater peccavi [1:39]
Manuel CARDOSO (1566-1650)
Paradisi portas [2:31]
Pablo BRUNA (1611-1679)
Tiento de 1° tono de mano derecha* [4:26]
Manuel CARDOSO (1566-1650)
Sanctus, from Missa Paradisi portas [2:25]
Sitivit anima mea [3:18]
Benedictus and Agnus Dei, from Missa Paradisi portas [6:02]
Manducaverunt, et saturati sunt [1:00]
Tanto ergo sacramentum [2:23]
Estêvão de BRITO (c.1575-1641)
Heu, Domine [3:10]
Gaspar dos REIS (?) (d.1674)
Concertato sobre o canto chão de Ave Maria* [2:05]
Estêvão Lopes MORAGO (c.1573-after 1630)
Jesu redemptor, suscipe illam [1:27]
Martinho Garcia de OLAGUE (dates unknown)
Verso do 1° tom* [1:08]
Luis de ARANDA (d.1627)
Quomodo sedet sola [2:58]
* organ solo
The Choir of the Queen’s College, Oxford/Owen Rees
Tom Wilkinson (organ)
rec. 19-21 April 2005, Chapel of the Queen’s College, Oxford
GUILD GMCD 7296 [63:08]


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At the core of this CD is Manuel Cardoso’s Missa Paradisi portas. A fascinating figure, Cardoso joined the Carmelite Order in 1588, taking vows in July of the following year. The well-endowed Convento do Carmo in Lisbon had a substantial musical life, including both singers and instrumentalists and Cardoso became the dominant figure in the music of the Convent. Later he was in the service of the Duke of Bragança, the future King John (João) IV of Portugal. Cardoso published three books of masses, the Missa Paradisi portas appearing as the first in the composer’s second collection, published in 1636. As Owen Rees points out in his excellent booklet notes, the title of the mass is something of a puzzle, but may contain an important clue to one dimension of its meaning. The words seem to be an allusion to one of the responsories sung at Matins during the first week of Lent:

Paradisi portas aperuit nobis jejunii tempus: suscipiamus illud orantes, et deprecantes: Ut in die resurrectionis cum Domino gloriemur.

The time of fasting has opened for us the gates of paradise: let us undertake it, praying and pleading: that on the day of resurrection we may rejoice with the Lord.

But the Mass makes no use of the plainchant melody for this responsory; nor can it have been intended for performance during Lent, since it includes the Gloria, never sung during Lent. A setting of the responsory text as a motet for four voices which may be by Cardoso – and which is also recorded here – again has no musical relationship with the Mass. Rees points out that this second book of Masses was dedicated to the future king and that in his dedication Cardoso points out that João had provided him with his themes. From 1580 onwards, Portugal had been ruled by Spain; by the 1630s Portuguese hopes for the restoration of a Portuguese monarch, of liberation from Spanish rule, were very much centred on João and Rees persuasively demonstrates that Cardoso’s setting contains coded messages of support for such hopes. It is a fascinating example of the way in which Renaissance and Baroque artists – poets, composers, painters and architects alike – often contrive to articulate political statements within works which have no obvious or explicit political agenda; how patterns of patronage can often contain clues to one level, at least, of a work’s meaning. Musically speaking, the Mass is characteristic of Cardoso’s subtle use of counterpoint in a manner much influenced by Palestrina. The music is richly textured, the word-setting expressive, the use of dissonance subtle and effective.

Around the Mass, the CD includes a variety of other music by Cardoso and his - more-or-less - contemporaries. One of the finest pieces is Cardoso’s six-voice motet Sitivit anima mea, based on a conflation of two Psalm texts - the generally helpful documentation might have been a bit more explicit on the sources of some of the texts - with its poignant spiritual yearning and its beautiful closing passage as the text speaks of aspirations towards a flight to heavenly rest. Elsewhere, the two surviving motets of Duarte Lobo are included. His remarkable Audivi vocem de cælo makes a wonderful opening to the CD, one of the minor masterpieces of Portuguese polyphony. Most of the unfamiliar music by lesser-known masters such as Manuel Leitão de Aviles and Estèvão de Brito – whose Heu, Domine is particularly striking – proves to be very interesting and sometimes compelling.

The Frobenius organ in Queen’s College Chapel – I have fond memories of going, as a student, to hear early recitals on the organ at the time of its installation in 1965 – is heard to attractive effect in four pieces, well played by Tom Wilkinson, that by the Spaniard Pablo Bruna being particularly intriguing, with some unexpected figurations and syncopations.

Throughout, the performances are highly competent, the higher voices resonant and sure, the handling of intricate textures generally very clear, the balance between formality of structure and expressive detail well sustained. The programme has been well chosen and constructed and the choir does it justice. The recorded sound is excellent and captures well the acoustic of the chapel.

The booklet, as well as a useful essay by Owen Rees – in English and German – contains full Latin texts, with English translations and – a particular pleasure – a cover reproduction of James Thornhill’s The Ascension, from the ceiling of the chapel, a fine piece of English  baroque art.

Glyn Pursglove






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