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Jacobus Vaet (c1529-1567)
Missa Ego flos campi

Antevenis virides  (6vv) [4:49] 
Missa ‘Ego flos campi’ (6vv/8vv)1 [29:36]
Ecce apparebit Dominus (5vv)  [4:28] 
Magnificat octavi toni (4/5vv) [7:42] 
Miserere mei, Deus (5vv) [5:35] 
Filiæ Jerusalem (5vv) [3:04] 
Spiritus Domini (6vv) [5:16] 
Musica Dei donum (5vv) [3:16] 
Salve regina (6vv) [6:41] 
Jacob Clemens non Papa (c1510-c1555)
Ego flos campi
(7vv) (c.1550)2 [3:37]
Cinquecento Renaissance Vokal
with 1,2 Bernd Oliver Fröhlich (tenor); 1Simon Whiteley (bass)
rec. Kloster Pernegg, Waldviertel, Austria, 25th-28th May, 2008.  DDD.
Brochure with notes, texts and translations.
HYPERION CDA67733 [75:21]
Experience Classicsonline

This download (from iTunes) was obtained too late for inclusion in my April 2009 Download Roundup and I thought it too good to wait for the May edition; it will appear there, almost certainly as Download of the Month, unless something even better comes along.
 
If Jacobus Vaet is anything more than a name to you, it’s probably because you own or have heard his music on an earlier Cinquecento CD, Music for the Court of Maximilian II (CDA67579 – see the strong recommendation in Johan van Veen’s review), which included his music alongside that of Lassus and several contemporaries.  I was recently very surprised to discover that, despite the welcome given here and by other reviewers, this featured as one of Hyperion’s ‘please buy me’ recordings, offered on a first-come basis for £5.60.  I’m happy to report that I snapped it up at that price and am thoroughly delighted with the purchase.
 
More recently, Cinquecento recorded Jacob Regnart’s Missa super Œniades Nymphæ, also for Hyperion (CDA67640).  Again, despite very enthusiastic reviews here and elsewhere, I’ve just purchased that recording for £5.60, too.  Not only did Dominy Clements give it a strong recommendation in his review, he also made it one of his Recordings of the Year for 2007: “Richness of sonority and expressive musicality characterise Cinquecento’s performance, and their few voices always sound like many more in this recording of some rare and special vocal repertoire. Jacob Regnart’s music is as intoxicating as are these recordings.”
 
A third colleague, Gary Higginson, was also impressed by their next recording, of music by Philippe de Monte (CDA67658 – see review) and I was equally impressed by the download of that recording in 256k aac sound from iTunes, as I wrote in my March, 2009, Download Roundup:
 
Some time ago I recommended a Claves recording of music by the 16th-century composer Philippe or Philippus de Monte (50-2712, Ensemble Orlando Fribourg/Laurent Gendre); in fact, I made it Recording of the Month – see review.  If you followed my recommendation and are looking for downloads of more music by de Monte with very little duplication, Cinquecento have recorded his Missa Ultimi miei sospiri, together with the Verdelot piece which serves as its cantus firmus ... in fully acceptable 256kbps AAC sound from iTunes.  I can the more wholeheartedly recommend this download since I paid for it myself.  Like Gary Higginson ... I am disappointed only by the short playing time of this recording and the less-than-appropriate cover painting, an unusual lapse for Hyperion whose presentation is usually spot on.
 
I truly hope that sales of the first two Cinquecento recordings never again appear on Hyperion’s list of waifs and strays and that neither the de Monte nor the present recording ever joins them there.  Music of this quality in such excellent performances, lovingly recorded by a company which cares about these things, deserves to sell like hot cakes.
 
Apart from odd items on Etcetera KTC1287, music by Clemens Non Papa and his contemporaries, Eufoda EUF1164, music by de Monte and contemporaries, and a 10-CD Etcetera set, Masters of Flanders (KTC1380), the earlier Cinquecento CD of music for Maximilian and the new recording are the only representatives of Vaet’s music in the catalogue.  Clemens, whose music is better known, and who forms the anchor on KTC1287, here adopts the much lesser role of having contributed the tune for Ego flos campi which forms the cantus firmus of Vaet’s Mass.  Clemens must have been something of a joker, since he gave himself the nickname non Papa – Clement, but not the Pope of that name.
 
Are Cinquecento justified in giving Vaet a CD of his own, with the better-known Clemens as second fiddle?  Emphatically, yes.  You may be tired of reading reviewers like myself claiming that a particular recording enshrines the music of a neglected genius, but such is the case with Vaet, whose music is not put to shame on the earlier recording by juxtaposition there with Lassus’s Pacis amans, and who certainly deserves the new CD virtually to himself.  If anything, the music here is more worthy of acclaim than the five works on that earlier recording.  Indeed, it seems likely that his colleague Lassus valued Vaet’s music highly.
 
The opening work Antevenis virides, is one of those works in praise of princes which renaissance artists had to create to please their lords and masters, though sometimes, like Erasmus, they disguised their toadying as ‘advice to princes’.  In this setting of an acrostic poem in laudem illustrissimi Principis Albertis Bavariæ Ducis, Vaet salutes his master, Albrecht of Bavaria, his patron and Lassus’s.  It’s a workaday piece, but it’s also workmanlike, and it makes a good introduction to the recording since it’s written for six voices.  Like everything here and on the other programmes, it’s flawlessly sung, all six members of Cinquecento taking part – two countertenors, two tenors, baritone and bass.
 
The major work follows on tracks 2 to 6.  This 6-part Missa Ego flos campi is based on a 7-part motet by Clemens, included as the final track on the CD.  As with the Mass on the de Monte recording, I wonder why this piece was not placed first, so that we might have the basis of the cantus firmus of the Mass in our heads before the work begins.  It is, of course, possible to programme it to precede the Mass, but that seems an unnecessary nuisance.
 
Clemens’ motet Ego flos campi is a beautiful work of Marian devotion.  We ought not to be surprised that a composer with a reputation for dissolution and drunken behaviour could write such beautiful music; after all, Thomas Weelkes was dismissed from Chichester Cathedral in 1617 for drunken behaviour and other composers have led less than blameless lives.
 
Vaet takes a very effective piece of music and turns it, with art which conceals art, into a minor masterpiece, the first four sections being written for six voices, but the final part, Agnus Dei, is in eight parts.  I don’t recommend that you become too involved in the means by which this metamorphosis of Clemens’ music is achieved, but they are outlined in the excellent notes – otherwise, just sit back and enjoy the music.  Everything is again excellently performed and, in the Agnus, the two extra voices of the outsiders fit into Cinquecento’s sound-pattern flawlessly, as, indeed, one of them also does in the Clemens motet.
 
Yet Cinquecento aim not just for beauty in their singing; they are aware of the affective power of the music and bring it out effectively.  Vaet’s Miserere (track 9) may not have the sheer beauty of Allegri’s famous setting, but it does have the power to express contrition without lugubriousness and these characteristics are well realised – fully realised, indeed – in the performance without in any way compromising the beauty of their singing.
 
The other major work, the 4/5-part Magnificat octavi toni (tr.8) and, indeed, the shorter pieces, all receive excellent performances which can only enhance the reputation of the performers and the composer.  Plainchant and polyphony alternate beautifully in the Magnificat.  I’ve already reviewed more than enough excellent recordings this year to have filled my complement of Recordings of the Year, but this new recording must surely be a strong contender for inclusion.
 
The recording, made like the Regnart in the sympathetic acoustic of Kloster Pernegg, is excellent.  The other two recordings were made in other Austrian churches with suitable acoustics.
 
The booklet is, as usual with Hyperion, exemplary, with detailed and informative notes on the music and all the texts and translations.  For once, the use of one of those renaissance flower-and-veg face paintings, by the master of the genre, Arcimboldo, is appropriate for music which sets the words Ego flos campi, ‘I am the flower of the field’.  Whereas the paintings employed for the Regnart and de Monte recordings were frankly grotesque – just the opposite of the performances – this flower concoction is rather attractive.  To find anything at all to criticise, I’m reducing to saying that I’d prefer the æ ligature to be employed instead of ae in words such as Filiæ (track 10, title).
 
You may recall that Mrs Organ Morgan in Under Milk Wood had trouble deciding which of the twins who lived in the village she liked better – Mr Organ Morgan, not listening, said that he preferred Bach, closely followed by Palestrina.  I find myself in the same quandary as Mrs Organ Morgan; though I share her husband’s predilection for Bach and Palestrina, there is such a plethora of excellent recordings of renaissance music available now that I find it hard to give them a pecking order.  All four Cinquecento recordings for Hyperion are certainly among the best that I’ve ever heard, including The Tallis Scholars and The Sixteen; I just can’t decide which of them to recommend that you buy first, so why not go for this new one? 
 
If you already have one or more of the other recordings, you’ll need no urging from me to buy this latest offering on CD or as a download.  Don’t put off buying it, as I did with the two recordings which ended up among the ‘please buy me’ offers; support Hyperion’s enterprise in bringing us such wonderful recordings.  As with the de Monte, I can recommend this new recording all the more convincingly, since I paid to buy it, instead of receiving a review copy.
 
The download from iTunes costs £7.99 and the 256k sound in this and the de Monte download is hardly inferior to that on the two Cinquecento recordings which I own in CD format.  There are no notes or texts, but Hyperion offer the substantial and valuable booklet and the artwork as pdf downloads on their website – make sure that you access these before burning to CDR or syncing to your player, otherwise you may find that iTunes has placed the tracks in the wrong order.  If you have any doubts about your technical ability to rearrange them, buy the physical disc – available at less than £10 from some online dealers.
 
Brian Wilson
 

 


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