> Music for Philip of Spain [PW] : Classical Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music for Philip of Spain

Dicite in magni 7’14"

Domine Ostende 6’11"

Nimphes nappés 3’11"

Requiem: Introit; Kyrie; Gradual 6’22"; 4’30" 6’40"

Gradual 4’43"
Tract 3’21"

Requiem: Offertory; Sanctus 9’23" 2’29"

Versa est in luctum 5’16"

Requiem: Benedictus Agnus Dei Communion 1’50" 3’23" 3’20" dismissal

Libera me 8’29"
Chapelle du Roi/Alistair Dixon - director
Recordings made in St Jude’s Church, Hampstead, London on 11-13 May 1998
SIGNUM SIGCD005 [78’41"]
CD available for post-free online mail-order or you may download individual tracks. For some labels you can download the entire CD with a single click and make HUGE savings. The price you see is the price you pay! The full booklet notes are available on-line.

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Spanish early music has become comparatively mainstream in recent years, but this disc shows that there are still large tracts of fine renaissance music that are still to be tapped. The programme includes works by major international figures of the sixteenth century - Josquin and Gombert, as well as motets by the, now fairly well known, Spaniards Guerrero and Alonso Lobo. Of these figures, Lobo is possibly the most interesting. Blending styles of the old and the new, his motet "Libera me", at 8’29" a substantial piece of composition, contrasts the usual sinuous polyphony with quite extended passages in traditional plainsong. The contrast of textures that results from this juxtaposition of the severe and the lush is striking and effective. Avoiding the mistake of over-cooking the richness of the polyphony Alistair Dixon draws from his singers a greater sense of the sublime. In contrast, the chanting of the plainsong is given a weight and richness that its melodic simplicity might at first not suggest. This contrast works very effectively. [track 16 - start 4’30" ]

The major work on this disc is much less well known although why this should be so is a mystery. The booklet notes by Bruno Turner make a fascinating case for the discovery of the music that was sung at the Royal Exequies - what we would now call a memorial service - celebrated five weeks after the death of Philip II of Spain. There survives a proposed order of service for this occasion which says "the Mass of the dead is to be that of Circumdederunt for six voices..." There are several There are few survivals of works from this period that include the motet "Circumdederunt me", but surprisingly the six voice Requiem by Jean Richafort is based throughout on canons employing the chant ‘Circumdederunt me gemitus mortis." It was published in Attaignant’s sixth collection of masses in 1532. This is one of those masterworks that defies logical comprehension as to how such perfection of musical beauty could combine with such strict and rigorous technical structures.

The six part texture lends a richness and dignity that the singers of Chapelle du Roi relish. There are 16 singers credited in the booklet, making this a fairly large group for this sort of music, but Alistair Dixon moulds the textures well, avoiding the thickness of sound that can easily result from careless blending of the six parts. [ track 4 - start 0’00" ] Just occasionally there is some rather uneven intonation in the plainsong, which is a shame as the general gloss of the sound in the polyphony is good. The standard of presentation with Signum discs is excellent. Cover designs are well thought out and tastefully executed; booklet notes with complete texts and translations into Spanish and German are excellent. The quality of the recording employs the generous acoustic of St Jude’s, Hampstead to good effect, without loosing the clarity while yet retaining the sense of spaciousness that complements Dixon’s spacious pacing. Overall there is a feeling of tremendously relaxed solemnity that would almost certainly have suited the style of His Late Majesty. [track 10 - start 0’09" ]

Peter Wells


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Dicite in magni

Domine ostende

Nimphes nappes





Versa est in luctum

Agnus Dei

Libera me

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