This fascinating disc
opens with a unison version of ‘L’homme
Armé’ - a hit-song of the 15th
Century. It formed the basis of many
masses. This curious mass uses it in
part of the Kyrie, part of the Sanctus
and in the tenor part in the third rendition
of the Agnus. The Gloria uses the plainchant
melody known as ‘Domine Deus’ to be
found in the ‘Graduale Romanum’ (on
page 760 of the 1973 edition). The Credo,
the longest single item on the disc,
appears to be freely composed so the
editors of the mass have given it no
name. Its lack of a name has meant that
it has languished unrecorded until now.
It is however a very fine work and well
The last item on the
programme is Anchieta’s glorious setting
of the ancient ‘Salve Regina’ text.
Juan de Anchieta may be known to some
early music enthusiasts as the composer
of a little song in five-time, ‘Con
amores, mi Madre’. It has been often
recorded. He was however mainly a church
musician. Keith Anderson, as interesting
and as readable as ever, in his booklet
notes tells us that Anchieta’s "mother
was the great aunt of the future saint
St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the
Society of Jesus. Anchieta was a chapel
singer to Queen Isabella until 1503
and then for Queen Joanna the Mad and
her husband Philip the Fair". A
fair pedigree. The surviving works include
two complete masses, two Magnificats
and many motets. He was certainly one
of the leading figures of the day.
It is excellent then
that Josep Cabre has turned his attention
to this composer, and that as is in
keeping with many performances at present
of Spanish Renaissance music, the all-male
group are accompanied by an instrumental
consort consisting of shawms, sackbuts,
dulcians and cornets with continuo players.
The last time I came across Cabre was
as a baritone with Marcel Peres’ ‘Ensemble
Organum’ back in the late 1980s. It
was at about that time that he founded
the group ‘Campania Musical’. He has
also taken on the guest directorship
of other early music groups.
which consists of nine male voices,
makes an astonishingly rich and unique
sound, highly suited to this repertoire.
Other recordings normally use a mixed
choir - for example ‘The Orchestra of
the Renaissance’ under Richard Cheetham.
A good starting point
on this new CD would be the Gloria.
This uses the plainchant in three ways:
as a melody in the upper voice accompanied
homophonically, as a tenor part with
contrapuntal lines weaving around it,
and as a migrating melody moving between
the parts. This gives the Gloria and
the Mass itself much variety of texture.
It also serves to illustrate the various
possibilities open to a Renaissance
composer, particularly a very good one,
who can use these techniques and yet
make his Mass (which was, after all,
considered to be the peak of the composer’s
art) sound as a homogeneous whole.
The vocal items are
usefully broken up by plainchant incantations
such as the Offertorium ‘Ave Maria gratia
plena’ by the organ solos and by the
solo instrumental renditions. How interesting
it is to hear Peñalosa’s quite
well known motet ‘Sancta mater istud
agas’ played instrumentally and given
a wonderfully sonorous and solemn effect.
I am only sorry that space could not
have been found for another instrumental
This disc rather oddly
comes in Naxos’s ‘Spanish Classics’
series and not in their Early Music
I cannot find anything
about the disc that I do not like and
I can only advise you to find a fiver
and enjoy it for yourself.
See also review
by Jonathan Woolf