Joan Pau PUJOL (1570-1626)
Qué decís que visteis vos, a 8 [3:51]
Missa sexti toni, a 8 [17:45]
Beatus vir, a 8 [5:53]
Magnificat secundi toni, a 8 [5:46]
Regina caeli, a 8 [2:54]
Alma, herido me tenéis, a 6 [5:01]
Sacra majestad, sed preso, a 7 [6:11]
Exaudi Nos/Joan Grimalt
rec. 27-28 March 2009, Sanata church, Lliçà de Munt, Catalonia. DDD

The life and music of Juan Pujol (or in Catalan Joan Pau Pujol) span the 'Golden Age' of Spanish polyphony and the polychoral traditions developed in the seventeenth century in Italy. Pujol is a not uncommon Catalan name; this little-known composer is not to be confused with any of at least five other composers of that name, all of whom are variously represented in the current catalogue. Joan Pau Pujol is not. Indeed this spirited and convincing recording from Exaudi nos which includes his Missa sexti toni is the only one currently available of these interesting works.

It would do the listener well to go beyond the cult of the Catalan and the curiosity value of this music. While it's true that it inhabits a nicely-concentrated and intimate world in the way that the music of some of Pujol's contemporaries most definitely does not, the compositional style, the urbanity and the transparent delicacy of his musical ideas places this music well within the mainstream of European music of the time.

One of the qualities of the music which should strike you at first is its naturalness; there's no sense of conventions being so strictly adhered to that the painting is forced in any way. And painting it is: Pujol's world is an expressive one. Colour and texture play important parts. And Exaudi nos makes the most of the opportunities to convey celebration, exhilaration, veneration and the many other emotions which this sacred music unequivocally elicits.

Much of the sense of space and legitimate majesty - without any undue emphasis on ritual, for example - come from Pujol's use of a double choir. For its size (15 strong) Exaudi nos, which also has only two other CDs to its credit, makes the most of this world. They're instrumentalists as well as vocalists. Like many of such specialist groups, they dedicate themselves as much to research in the field - indeed to recovery of music from this repertoire. They also emphasise a dialogue with their audiences based on respect for its spirituality and place as religious creations. Interestingly the group was originally founded in Vienna in 1980; yet only in the last ten years has concentrated on Catalan music.

Variety is also a characteristic that is to the fore in Pujol's music yet not a spurious dabbling in different 'effects' for their own sake. Rather we experience a generous and somewhat relaxed command of technique. This flows from detachment, confidence and familiarity with the genres and how they can be bent to produce the engagement between composer, performer and listener in the interests of sober liturgical service. This music is gently ingenious and genuine; it has its own momentum and logic. These performances convey such strengths admirably.

The presentation of this CD, for all it lasts barely three-quarters of an hour, is good. Not only is the acoustic clear without using reverberation for effect; the recording was made in a small stone church, which gives it an excellent atmosphere. The booklet that comes in the 'digipak' is full of useful information … from brief biographical details, to the likely pronunciation of contemporary Catalan in the case of the three villancicos, to details of Exaudi nos and how they arrived at the programme; and full texts. Although this composer may invite a crusade on his behalf, the whole project has been executed calmly and professionally. Well worth a good look.

Mark Sealey