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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Orlando di LASSO (1532-1594)
Eine Marienvesper (Introitus [1:16] Dixit Dominus Domino meo [7:05]; Laudate pueri Dominum [6:13]; Laetatus sum [8:25]; Nisi Dominus [6:55]; Lauda Jerusalem [10:26]; Responsorium: Felix namque [5:13]; O gloriosa Domina [3:16]; Salve Regina [3:16]; Magnificat [6:28]; Salve Regina [3:18]; Benedicamus [0:39])
Weser-Renaissance Bremen/Manfred Cordes
rec. Stiftskirche Bassum, 11-13 July 2005
CPO 777182-2 [64:22] 

 


In 1556, the twenty-three year old Orlando di Lasso came to the court of the Wittelsbach dukes in Munich. Although for the first several years of his tenure, he served in a secondary capacity to Ludwig Daser, he would later take over the reins of musical power and retain them for the rest of his life. Such was his relationship with Duke Albrecht V and later with his son Wilhelm that after his death, his sons and even his grandsons would continue to play a significant role in the musical life of Munich. While there, he traveled to many of the other musical centers of Europe. By his maturity he was the most respected and famous musician on the continent. Although a number of his works were published in his lifetime, it is thanks to the respect in which he was held by his employers that they encouraged him to collect his works and catalog them, thus leaving to prosperity one of the largest collections of music by a single composer from the renaissance. 

The Munich court had a long and proud reputation for fine music and the ducal chapel had a vast library of works dating back to Ludwig Senfl, who entered the court’s employ in 1523. Senfl and his immediate successors amassed a fine library and by the time Lasso took over the musical establishment, he had hundreds of scores at his disposal for use in the chapel. And yet, he himself composed over sixty masses, hundreds of motets and psalm settings in addition to his extensive body of secular works. 

The large number of Magnificat settings that he composed gives evidence to the frequent observance of Vespers in the ducal chapel. This is understandable given the high regard for the Blessed Virgin during the counter-reformation and the Duke’s return to Catholicism fairly early in his reign. It was commonplace for Daser and later Lasso to compile Vespers services from a number of musical sources, both old and new. 

In the present recording, Manfred Cordes has assembled a service from some of di Lasso’s finest examples of the Psalms, recreating an event that may well have taken place on a particularly solemn or important feast day. Drawing on what is known of performance practices of the day, Cordes uses an instrumental ensemble of predominantly brass instruments to accompany the singing, and has selected appropriate motets and plainchant antiphons to be inserted at the appropriate places between the five psalms and magnificat. 

This is a performance of the very highest quality and of uncompromising artistic standards. It is so often very easy to let the serene beauty of renaissance vocal lines spin endlessly with no attention paid to the drama and nuance of the texts. This bad practice is nowhere in evidence in these finely crafted and meticulously articulated readings. Maestro Cordes leads a vocal ensemble of fine light lyric voices, perfectly balanced and flawlessly in tune. His instrumentalists play with a crisp and clear articulation adding a warm underpinning to the sparkling vocal sounds and with an invigorating level of rhythmic panache. The lustrous acoustic of the Stiftskirche is used to glorious effect, and Cordes always finds the right tempo to keep the musical lines clear. He is also quite attentive to elegant phrasing, giving the music just enough time to breathe and allowing cadences to resolve and relax before he moves on. 

CPO have given us another beautiful production with clear transparent sound and their customarily high production values. Franz Körndle’s concise and informative note is an improvement over CPO’s annoying tendency to allow their annotators to ramble on in sentences of Dickensian complication. 

This is gorgeous music superbly performed. No listener of any stripe could possibly find it to be anything less than thrilling. 

Kevin Sutton 

 

 


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