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Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Adrian WILLAERT (1490-1562)
Inclite Sfortiadum princeps (1)
Domine Jesu Christi (2)
Ne projicias nos, Domine (2)
Victor io salve (1)
In convertendo (Psalm 125) (1,2)
Jachet of MANTUA (1483-1559)

Hesperiae ultimae invicto Regi (1, 2)
Enceladi Coeique Soror (2)
Missa Eceladi Coeique Soror (1,2)
O Angele Dei (1)
Dum vastos Adriae fluctus (2)
Jachet of MANTUA and Adrian WILLAERT

Nisi Dominus (Psalm 126) (1,2)
Ensemble Jachet de Mantoue (2)
Les Sacqueboutiers de Toulouse (1)
Recorded Prieuré de Froville, September 2003
CALLIOPE CAL 9342 [58.20]


Jachet (or Jacquet) of Mantua and Adrian Willaert (or Adriano Cantore as he generally signed himself) had strangely parallel lives. Both trained in Northern Europe (Willaert was Flemish, Jacquet a Breton) and both ended up in positions of influence in Italy at roughly the same period. Willaert was maestro di capella of St. Mark’s Venice from 1527 to 1562 and Jachet maestro di capella of the Cathedral in Mantua from 1526 to 1559. We know that they met in Ferrara when Jachet worked for the d’Este family there. That they were friends is indicated by their joint publication of a book of double-chorus psalms, ‘Salmi at uno et duoi chori’.

Two of the Psalms from this collection, Psalm 125 (In convertendo) and Psalm 126 (Nisi Dominus) are included in this disc from the French ensemble Jachet de Mantoue and the sackbuts and cornets of Les Saqueboutiers de Toulouse. The Ensemble Jachet de Mantoue is a five-man group consisting of counter-tenor, two tenors, baritone and bass and they are joined by the soprano Anne Magouet.

The motets on the disc reflect the need for such composers to write works in tribute to their patrons and employers. In both ‘Inclite Sfortiadum princeps’ and ‘Victor io, Salve’, Willaert uses a cantus firmus in praise of the Sforza family who commissioned the motets. Jachet’s motet ‘Enceladi Coeique soror’ rather oddly praises the Gonzaga Duke of Mantua’s horses. It is this motet on which Jachet based his Mass, ‘Missa Enceladi Coeique soror’, presumably for some unspecified court event. This mass forms the centre-piece of this disc. Based on the fact that Jachet’s motet ‘Hesperiae ultimae’ was written for the celebrations surrounding the visit to Mantua of Prince Philip of Spain (later King Philip II), the disc is designed to be a speculative reconstruction of a mass given for Philip; as such Jachet’s parody mass celebrating the Gonzaga stables would seem appropriate.

The Willaert motets ‘Inclite Sfortiadum princeps’ and ‘Victor io salve’ are given in purely instrumental versions. This reflects a significant aspect of this disc; the voices and instruments are mixed and matched. four items are performed by voices alone, two by instruments alone and the remainder are by voices and instruments. Whilst 16th century musicians could refer to a group of instruments and singers as a choir, mixing a small group of voices with cornets and sackbuts raises issues of balance. As recorded on this disc, the sackbuts and cornets tend to dominate when performing with the voices. This might not bother everyone, but I found that I wanted to hear the voices dominate the instruments more. This balance issue means that the singers’ diction is occluded and it is hard to follow the texts that they are singing. This is a shame, as each group when performing separately is entirely admirable and the size of forces used is, in theory, perfect for this music. I have one other stylistic quibble, the upper voices sing in a slightly mannered way, squeezing out the notes. Again this is a personal preference and might not annoy everyone.

This disc has an attractive and intelligently put together programme, allowing us to explore two composers who tend to occupy just the fringes of our musical consciousness. The shame is that stylistic issues mean the performances are less than ideal, but the disc is worth exploring all the same.

Robert Hugill

 

 



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