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Juan de ANCHIETA (1462-1523)
Missa Sine Nomine; Salve sancta parens; Ave sanctissima Maria; Virgo est Mater; Salve Regina
Josquin des PRES (1445-1521) Kyrie 1 (organ elaboration by Fernandez Palero)
Francisco de PENALOSA (1470-1528) Sancta Mater istud agas
Juan de URREDA (fl. c.1500) Hymn ‘Pange Lingua’ elaborated by Cabezon (1500-1566)
ANON; L’homme arme; Beata Viscera; Benedicta et venerabilis es; Ave gratia plena; (Plainchants) Reyna muy esclarecida;
Capilla Peñaflorida and the Ministriles de Marsias directed by Josep Cabre
Recorded at the Villabuena, Alava, Uriona, Araba, October 2000
NAXOS 8.555772 [67.23]
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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 worth hearing.

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.

Capilla Peñaflorida, 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 item.

This disc rather oddly comes in Naxos’s ‘Spanish Classics’ series and not in their Early Music one.

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.

Gary Higginson


See also review by Jonathan Woolf


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