Joan BRUDIEU (?1520-1591)
[Cantus ad Introitum:] Madrigal XIII: Fantasiant - Si fos Amor - Llir entre
Missa Defunctorum (c.1575) (interpolating Madrigal XIV: No hi ha Béns)
[Ite Missa est:] Madrigal XV: Ma Volentat - Plena de Seny [5:47]
Exaudi Nos/Joan Grimalt
rec. Institut Villa Romana de La Garriga, Barcelona, 16-17 October 2010. DDD
COLUMNA MÚSICA 1CM0251 [45:10]
Although Joan Brudieu was born in Limoges, he spent most of his life as cantor
and then priest at the 12th-century Cathedral of Santa Maria at La Seu d'Urgell
in Catalonia. There his name is pronounced approximately Joo-ann Brooth-yeh-oo
(accent on the italicised part), a rendition that would likely have been close
to that favoured by Occitan-speaking Limousin.
In this, their fourth recording (the third was reviewed here),
Catalan ensemble Exaudi Nos's aim is interesting and laudable: not just the
bare performance of Brudieu's surviving Requiem Mass, but to set it in an authentic
liturgical context. To this end they have intercalated three of Brudieu's madrigals:
the three-part no.13 to act as the Introit, the two-part no.15 as the Ite Missa
Est, and a short one between the Offertory and the Sanctus to serve as the Communion.
In addition, the Tractus section is entirely in plainchant, and there is further
chant in the Absolution, all of this historically justifiable.
The secular but metaphorical madrigals are sung in Catalan, the Mass itself
in Latin, the sounds of which come easily to Catalan speakers, who for British
listeners have the advantage of pronouncing consonants in much the same way
British ensembles do. Brudieu does not always leave the singer much time for
breathing, and sometimes individual voices come close to running out of puff,
but in general this is a decent performance by the six singers and six instrumentalists
of Exaudi Nos, under their director Joan Grimalt. The singing is of a high standard,
the odd intonational quaver by a solo voice notwithstanding.
Brudieu's Mass is considered one of the finest of its time and place. It is
not on the same artistic plane as comparable works by close contemporaries Byrd,
Lassus, Palestrina or, in Spain, Francisco Guerrero, but few are; in any case,
there is no question that it was worth recording. An intimate coterie of period
instruments is employed, most prominently the cornet and the continuo theorbo
or guitar, and sometimes a discreet organ.
The most negative thing that can and must be said about the product is the absurdly
short playing time: 45 minutes for a full-price disc is not a good way to make
friends. The timing is all the more regrettable for the missed opportunities
it represents: Brudieu is hardly over-represented on recordings, and several
of his madrigals could easily have been included - on the evidence of the three
here they would have been well worth hearing. As the above link to the label's
last Exaudi Nos release shows, Columna Música have previous history in
this regard; but however worthy the music, however glossy the booklet, full-price
CDs lasting 45 minutes or under are not only a bad deal for the customer, but
they put the product at a competitive disadvantage in a market packed with well-recorded
discs containing almost twice as much music, often at half the price.
Sound quality is very good, although it must be said that the Villa Romana Institute
- actually a secondary school - self-evidently has large rooms, because the
reverberation is ample, and particularly marked in the plainchant sections.
Indeed the photos suggest that the recording took place in the gymnasium! Presumably
this was a conscious decision, the idea being to recreate a church-like atmosphere.
In that case, job well done: this is an appealing, atmospheric recording that
takes the listener back to the sixteenth century.
The 50-side Catalan-Spanish-English booklet is attractively produced and provides
excellent detail, with a large number of footnotes adding historical remarks,
and the full sung texts with translations. The layout does suggest a somewhat
stream-of-consciousness approach - for example, some of the photos are repeated
in the different language sections, whereas others are not. The translations
into English are satisfyingly rendered by a native speaker.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
Brudieu's Mass: one of the finest of its time and place.