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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

Orlando di LASSUS (1532 - 1594)
The Lamentations of Jeremiah (5vv.) (pub.1585):-
Three Lamentations for Maundy Thursday [21í58]
Three Lamentations for Good Friday [21í29]
Three Lamentations for Holy Saturday [19í51]
Pro Cantione Antiqua/Bruno Turner
Recorded in St. Johnís Church, Hackney, London on 24-29 August 1981
Previously released on Hyperion CDA66321
REGIS RRC1123 [64í38"]


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The Lamentations are verses of the prophet Jeremiah sung as lessons in the Holy Week Tenebrae services in the Roman Catholic Church. A distinguishing feature is the inclusion of Hebrew letter-names (Aleph, Beth etc.) at the beginning of the text of each verse. A further characteristic is the exhortation to Jerusalem at the end of each section. Early editions were written by Arcadelt, Isaac, la Rue and contemporaries. Later settings were made by Carpentras, Palestrina and Victoria as well as Lassus. The English contributions of Tallis are better known than his pupil Byrd. 17th century settings were by Allegri and many solo versions with continuo from Italy. The vogue seems to have run its course in the latter half of the 18th century, although Alessandro Scarlatti, Porpora and Jommelli composed contributions in Naples. In France after 1600, settings were made under the title leçons de tenebre by Charpentier, Lalande and Couperin.

This one work takes the whole of one disc, and as can be seen was never intended to be heard all at one sitting, but rather as a series of "lessons", interspersed with psalms, readings and motets. Certainly, although a long work it has a nobility and extremely grave and serious aspect as befits the occasion. It does, however, make for hard listening, even when sung as well as by Pro Cantione Antiqua. There is one caveat to the performance; the work is written and sung by menís voices, which involves counter-tenors taking the high parts. At the upper part of their register these sound harsh and grating although otherwise the singing and intonation sound extremely well. It does not help that the normal timbre of the voices here is very reedy and penetrating; this becomes more marked with the higher pitch. Other than this, the performance is excellent, the ambience of St. Johnís Church is spacious and the recording is as good as the original Hyperion. Incidentally, this and Regis RRC1124 are still available on a Hyperion Dyad CDD22012, but you will lose four pounds if you exercise that option. The booklets are virtually identical, lacking only the German text translation on the later disc.

This is a disc for Lassus admirers, or those who wish to extend their knowledge of this fine composer.

John Portwood

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