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O Rex Orbis: Officium in Festo Sancti Karoli
First Vespers and Compline for the feast of Charlemagne
see end of review for track listing
Exsultemus/Shannon Canavin (soprano) and Eric Rice (tenor)
rec. Chapel of West Parish, Andover, MA, USA, May 2008. DDD
CD housed in hard-back booklet with texts and translations
MUSIQUE EN WALLONIE MEW1267 [78:32]

I hadn’t realised that the Emperor Charlemagne had ever become a saint, yet here we have thirteenth-century chant and renaissance polyphonic music for First Vespers and Compline of his feast day. In fact, he was canonised by a schismatic who was later repudiated as an anti-pope, so he isn’t generally recognised, but the office for his feast survives as a local cult at the cathedral in his city of Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle).
 
There’s much else that’s new to me, too, including the performers, Exsultemus, and the music of Johannes Mangon, Lambertus de Monte, Michael Wilhelm and Ludovicus Episcopius. Possibly yet another little-known composer is also involved, since the attribution of the opening Laudemus Dominum to Johannes Mangon is hypothetical. It’s not surprising that you won’t even have heard of these composers, since about de Monte (not to be confused with Philippus de Monte) and Wilhelm almost nothing is known and the CD comes in a series entitled Collection inédits, unpublished works. Only Lassus (Lasso) is well known and I don’t know any other recordings of his setting of In te, Domine, speravi. The music is all taken from the Aachen Cathedral archive and edited by joint director of Exsultemus, Eric Rice.
 
I can’t report that there are any undiscovered masterpieces here, but the polyphonic settings are attractive. If you’re averse to acres of plainsong I should warn you that the greater part of this recording - everything that isn’t labelled with a composer’s name - is chanted.
 
The celebration of the feast would have continued with Matins, Lauds, the minor offices and second Vespers on the following day - perhaps Musique en Wallonie have a second recording of these up their sleeves? If so, it would be welcome.
 
Both polyphony and chant are very capably sung. I haven’t come across Exsultemus previously and they don’t seem to have recorded before, but their chosen name - let us rejoice - offers a good indication of how they perform. I’m not sure on what authority the initial s of sæculum is made to sound like a z, but that’s a very small matter. The recording is very good.
 
Like the second volume of music by Lassus on the same Musique en Wallonie label, my review of which should have appeared by the time that you read this (MEW1268), the CD is housed in a substantial de luxe hard-back booklet with scholarly notes in four languages and colour illustrations as well as the texts and good translations. Not an essential purchase but an attractive venture down some untrodden pathways of 16th-century polyphony.
 
Brian Wilson 

Track listing
Johannes MANGON (c.1525-1578)
Laudemus Dominum
[3:02]
Deus in adjutorium (versicle and response) [0:44]
Regali natus de stirpe/Psalm 109 [3:01]
Angelici cultus/Psalm 110 [2:59]
Sacros effectus/Psalm 111 [2:59]
Justicie palma/Psalm 112 [2:58]
Nec mundi terror/Psalm 113) [2:43]
Johannes MANGON
Motet: O rex orbis
Egredimini filie Jherusalem (capitulum) [6:35]
Te secutus (response) [2:22]
Gloria et honore (versicle and response) [0:31]
Johannes MANGON
Motet: O spes afflictis [1:57]
Lambertus de MONTE (d. before 1606)
Magnificat
(primi/sexti toni) [7:34]
Johannes MANGON
Motet: O spes afflictis/in cithara/dissolutus in corpore [5:12]
Deus qui superhabundanti (collect) [1:04]
Benedicamus Domino [0:26]
Michael WILHELM (fl.c.1580-1610)
Ave Maria
[1:42]
Converte nos (versicle and response) [1:08]
Johannes MANGON
Motet: Vigila nos [2:08]
Psalm 4 [1:37]
Roland de LASSUS (c.1530-1594)
In te, Domine, speravi
[7:01]
Psalm 90 [1:30]
Psalm 133 [1:21]
O rex orbis [3:34]
Tu autem in nobis es, Domine (capitulum) [0:37]
Rex confessor/Nunc dimittis [3:12]
Benedicamus Domino [3:18]
Ludovicus EPISCOPIUS (c.1525-1595)
Salve regina super ‘doulce mémoire’
[6:22]