Lamentatio Jeremić Prophetć Alexander AGRICOLA (1446-1506) Lamentatio Jeremiae [17:33] Christobel de MORALES (1500?-1553) Taedet animam meam [4:16] * Jacob ARCADELT (1505?-1567?) Lamentatio Jeremiae [12:13] * Orlando di LASSO (1532?-1594) Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae [11:27] Responsorium, Monte Oliveti [2:51] ** Lamentatio Secunda Primi Diei [9:22] Responsorium, Tristis est anima mea [3:32] ** Lamentatio Tertia Primi Diei [10:13] Responsorium, Ecce vidimus eum [4:09] ** Responsorium, O vos omnes [2:55]
Kwartet: Peter de Groot (alto); Marco van de Klundert (tenor);
Hans Wijers (baritone); Donald Bentvelsen (bass)
Bas Ramselaar (bass-baritone) *
Gregoriana: Geert Maessen; Reinier van der Lof; Sjef van
rec. 4-7 July 2007, Laurentius Kerk, Mijnsheerenland, Netherlands.
The Lamentations of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah
were written in response to the fall of Jerusalem and Judah in
586 BCE. The texts, which in fact may not even be by Jeremiah
at all, consist of five chapters. The first, second and fourth
of these are identical in structure: they contain the same
number of verses (22) as letters in the Hebrew alphabet.
The translation in the Vulgate Bible (which is the source
for Renaissance composers) has each Latin verse beginning
with the corresponding letter of the alphabet … aleph, beth,
The texts have a florid but searing poignancy that obviously
attracted composers, even though the music is typically performed
only once in the liturgical year - in the last three days
of Holy Week. Concomitant with extreme colour evolved the
stricture that music composed in support of the Lamentations
should be as raw, pared down and devoid of ornamentation
as possible. The aim was literally to avoid joy.
This generous CD contains an anthology of European Renaissance
music written to commemorate the re-dedication to God which
is intended by the verse that ends each reading, ‘Jerusalem,
Jerusalem, convertere ad dominum deum tuum’ – ‘turn again
unto the Lord thy God’. Four composers are represented: Agricola,
Morales, Arcadelt and Lassus. They span 150 years of a tradition
that was already established by the time Agricola’s settings
appeared in the famous edition of 1506 by the pioneer Venetian
Agricola’s is the longest setting on this CD; it’s inward
looking, almost ruminatory; certainly meditative. It’s also
rich in texture, although the pace and approach to the text
taken by the Egidius Kwartet is tended … feeling is
overlaid with feeling; yet there is a great sense of peace
and centredness by the time the music slowly subsides. Performed
with great sensitivity and force by the Egidius Kwartet.
Although short, the extract by Morales, Taedet animam meam, is highly concentrated. That’s very much emblematic of
Morales’ style: staid, focused and spare. These are attributes
that are equally well conveyed by the singers. Though short,
their relationship with the singing is close and purposeful.
Arcadelt’s is the composition most at variance with the conventions:
order, initial letters and choice of texts all follow the
composer’s, rather than established tradition’s, way. It’s
distinct in other respects: there is greater directness and
less reticence, a less subdued approach, than in the Agricola,
say. Such variety adds to the appeal of the CD’s selection.
Indeed, Arcadelt is perhaps the composer whose work is least
known and thus whose output would repay closer attention.
The lion’s share of the music here is by Lassus, who composed
two complete Lamentations settings – in five and four parts.
We hear the latter on this disc; it’s generally actually
more melismatic than the five-part setting. Its richness
places it amongst Lassus’s most persuasive works. Then the
Gregorian chant-based Responsoria complement the composer’s
polyphony. They are performed by the three-person Gregoriana.
The Egidius Kwartet also has a knack of underlining Lassus’s
variety – their singing makes us aware of the composer’s
contrasts and many moods. Yet without gimmick or rush.
The Egidius Kwartet is a Dutch group founded in 1995 by members
of Ton Koopman’s Amsterdam Baroque Choir with the aim of
performing and recording Renaissance music in particular
from the Low Countries – in the widest sense of that term.
Their style is precise, clean and very distinctive; their
pronunciation unmistakably local to that part of Europe.
In their performance there’s respect, sombreness, and a darkness
appropriate to the material in hand – but illuminated by
perception. And theirs is a very quiet and unselfconscious
awareness of the beauty and weight of this music at that.
The members of the Egidius Kwartet impart a timelessness
to the singing that is truly captivating. The Arcadelt in
particular seems to flow and flow out of nothing back into
nothing: the feelings of loss, regret and suffering under
affliction are gently and tenderly expounded until one is
totally involved and enfolded in what is not a spectacular
sound. But a very carefully managed and highly focused one.
Similarly, the richness of the seven pieces by Lassus is
evident without being laid on too thickly. It’s music the
singers obviously know very well: they can thus afford to
hint at understatement, hint at what lies behind and beyond
the notes with the smallest gestures of tempi and relative
Refreshingly, there is also a slight sense of ‘under-polish’.
Not every note, nuance and nicety is buffed to perfection,
as would be the case if the Tallis Scholars, say, were singing.
The individual qualities of the four - or five in the Morales
and Arcadelt, where they are joined by bass-baritone
Bas Ramselaar - voices are constantly audible and add to the
immediacy and personality of the music … listen to the
changes in tempo and dynamic at the end of the First Lamentation
by Lassus. Magical yet also very real.
The recording is good, though a little uneven in places
with some hiss. The notes in the accompanying booklet by
Peter de Groot are short but to the point. The texts in Latin
and English are rather cramped, but useful.
There are no equivalent recordings of the Agricola and Morales.
Superb alternatives for the Arcadelt are the anthology on
Eufoda (1248) by the Currende Vocal Ensemble under Erik Van
Nevel. And Pro Cantione Antiqua on Regis (RRC1123) under
Turner; or King's College Choral Scholars on
Signum (SIGCD076) under Cleobury for the Lassus.
There is still much to recommend the present release … its
passion, intimacy, sense of dedication which mixes introspection
with competence; and the Egidius Kwartet’s unfettered confidence
in the way they come to this lugubrious music head-on without
maudlin and with a dose of vigour, where perhaps lassitude
and dolorousness would be expected. This CD will move and
stimulate and should not be overlooked.
Founding Editor Rob Barnett Senior Editor
John Quinn Seen & Heard Editor Emeritus Bill Kenny Editor in Chief
Vacant MusicWeb Webmaster
David Barker MusicWeb Founder Len Mullenger
from previous months Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the
discs reviewed. details We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to
which you refer.