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Cristóbal de Morales (c.1500–1553)
Andreas Christi famulus [5:43]
Sancta Maria, succurre miseris [5:06]
Clamabat autem mulier Chananea [3:48]
O sacrum convivium [6:16]
Regina caeli [2:35]
Jean Mouton (before 1459–1522) Queramus cum pastoribus [4:50]
Cristóbal de Morales
Missa Queramus cum pastoribus [36:32]
The Choir of Westminster Cathedral/James O’Donnell
rec. Westminster Cathedral, London, 24-27 November 1992. DDD. (from CDA66635)
Booklet with notes in English, French and German, texts and translations.


Experience Classicsonline

Christmas has come a little early this year, with a superb performance of Morales’ Mass based on Mouton’s nativity motet Queramus cum pastoribus – “Let us seek Him with the shepherds, the incarnate Word ... Noël, Noël”, a very popular piece in the Sixteenth Century, which is performed immediately before the mass. The appeal of this recording is enhanced by the fact that the motet and mass are preceded on the CD by five attractive shorter pieces.

I won’t bother you with a repetition of what Bob Briggs has said (review); I merely reinforce his recommendation by making this CD my Bargain of the Month. Don’t bother to wait for Christmas to obtain it. Performances and recording are just about ideal. 

Morales’ music may seem to lack some of the intense passion of his Spanish contemporaries – even the music which he composed before he travelled to Rome often sounds less insular than that of Victoria and his other contemporaries – but that serves only to make it capable of being more widely appreciated. Reviewing the Brabant Ensemble’s recent premiere recording of Morales’ Magnificat primi toni on Hyperion (CDA57694 – see review), I referred to the understated magnificence of that work, a description which applies equally well to the music here. 

I gave that Brabant Ensemble CD a strong recommendation, tempered only by the observation that Hyperion also had some excellent recordings of 16th-century music in their budget-price Helios catalogue. I specifically mentioned this Morales reissue and another Westminster Cathedral reissue, of the music of Morales’ student Guerrero, which I recently recommended (Missa Sancta et immaculata, CDH55313 – see review). 

The purse-proud will be pleased to note that it’s possible to buy both these Helios recordings and still have some change left over from the cost of the full-price CD. Others less troubled by the current financial woes are strongly advised to go for all three. And don’t forget the Chandos recording of the music of Morales and his contemporaries by Northern Voices which I recommended in the review of the Brabant Ensemble’s Morales: hybrid SACD CHSA5050, let down only by a very short recording time. 

The Westminster Cathedral style is different from that of the Brabant Ensemble, with rather more measured tempi; both are excellent within their own terms. I’m not fully persuaded by the argument that the Westminster choristers sing polyphonic music in a style more accordant with 16th-century continental practice, but they certainly make the best possible case for the music of Morales here. 

The booklet advertises four other Westminster Cathedral reissues on the Helios label, three of which I own in their original or reissued formats and all of which I can recommend – Anerio’s Requiem (CDH55213), Lassus’ Missa Bell’Amfitrit’Altera (CDH55212) and Masterpieces of Portuguese Polyphony (CDH55229). The only reason why I don’t have the fourth, Britten’s A Boy was born and Rejoice in the Lamb (CDH55307) is the fact that these particular Britten works have never fired me with enthusiasm in the way that his other Christmas music, A Ceremony of Carols, has. Together with the Guerrero CD, which I have already mentioned, all these Westminster recordings may be strongly recommended. 

My review copy came minus its rear insert but a visit to Hyperion’s website soon put matters right – like Chandos, Hyperion now offer the booklets and inserts for their CDs, presumably for the benefit of those who download them from iTunes. That reminds me to repeat my advice that, while full-price Hyperion recordings are good value as iTunes downloads, especially more recent recordings in the iTunes plus format, you shouldn’t even think about downloading Helios issues for the same price, when the CD can be obtained for less.

Brian Wilson

see also Review by Bob Briggs


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