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Orlando di LASSO (1532-1594)
Cantiones Duarum Vocum (1577)
Complete version – instrumental - tracks 1-24 [40.13]
Vocal version of the texted ‘Cantiones’ - tracks 25-36 [19.21]
Paolo Tognon; Claudio Verh (dulcians) (instrumental tracks)
Gruppo Vocale Armoniosoincanto/Franco Radicchia (vocal)
rec. May 2009, Padua, Italy (instrumental); March 2011, Chiesa di S. Secondo, Gubbio, Italy (vocal)
Track-Listing at end of review
TACTUS TC531202 [59.34]

What a versatile composer Lassus (or Lasso) was. There are sacred pieces in Latin and hundreds of secular ones, Italian, French, and German. These are sometimes simply homophonic, with memorable melodies, others with complex counterpoint and close imitation. He was perhaps the greatest composer of his age.
 
Cantiones Duarum Vocum comprises just two-part pieces by Lassus and was published in Munich in 1577. It is often mentioned in various treatises on the composer but is rarely heard. This is the world premiere recording of its complete format although for some reason it is not presented in the printed order.
 
The 24 Duos are didactic pieces written for Lassus’ students but proved to be so successful that that it was reprinted well beyond the composer’s lifetime. That is not too surprising. What is amazing is the variety of ideas, starting points or head motifs, modulations and technical devices which Lassus employed. When textless they are actually called ‘bicinia’ (meaning simply, music in two parts) and are individual and expressive.
 
Writing duos was one of the most important techniques to acquire for a young 16th century composer. Furthermore Lassus restricts himself to the modes on D, E, F and G omitting A and C. Interestingly track eight uses the ‘La, sol, fa, re, mi’ melodic pattern which Josquin had turned into a complete Mass almost a hundred years before. Lassus only uses it as starting point before turning it upside down and adding passing note changes across its entire progress.
 
The performers have contrived a fascinating way of presenting the pieces. First all 24 are played instrumentally on dulcians by Paolo Tognon and Claudio Verh. Soprano, alto, tenor and bass mix up the combinations. Following that the twelve texted pieces are sung: the first six by the sisters Caterina and Elisabetta Beccheti, and Elisa Calderini and Francesca Piottoli who make up the Gruppo Vocale Armoniosoincanto. The rest are performed by Mauro Borgioni and Enea Sorino, tenor and bass. The vocal contrast is pleasing and durable.
 
One interesting thing to do is to programme the instrumental and vocal versions side by side, for example tracks 1 and 25. This can throw into relief the differentiation of speed as for example Oculis non vedit, nec auris audivir. The dulcians get through it more than twenty seconds quicker than the more expressive vocal version. Then again, that’s not surprising as words, especially sacred ones, often need a careful and thoughtful delivery. However Beatus vir qui sapientia comes out at the exact same time length.
 
You may decide to start at the beginning and play right through but that does mean that you must endure forty minutes of just dulcians. These are played beautifully and with immaculate tuning and phrasing. Even so it may over-stretch your patience a little.
 
In fairness this is really a disc for the specialist and student and one you may well wish just to dip into. Many students, both those doing A-level and as undergraduates, have to learn to compose or certainly grasp sixteenth century two-part technique. This would be as good a place to start as any. On the other hand I wonder if the score would be readily obtainable.
 
My normal gripe is that there are no texts supplied but this is one of those rare occasions when it’s probably not necessary as the texts are so short. The recording poses no problems and is clear and well balanced. The vocal pieces have a pleasant sense of the acoustic of the ancient church in the beautiful, historic town of Gubbio in Umbria.
 
Gary Higginson
 
Track-listing
Instruments only
1. Beatus Vir qui in sapientia morabatur [1.28]
2. Sine textu [2.06]
3. Sicut roas inter spinas [1.35]
4. Sine textu [1.45]
5. Sine textu [1.45]
6. Sine textu [2.10]
7. Justus cor suum tradet [1.16]
8. Sine textu [1.48]
9. Sancti mei qui in isto seculo [1.21]
10. Serve bone et fidelis [1.24]
11. Fulgebunt justi sicut lilium [1.25]
12. Expetatio justorum laetitia [1.11]
13. Sine textu [2.19]
14. Sine textu [1.46]
15. Sine textu [1.53]
16. Beatus homo qui inveneit sapientiam [1.35]
17. Sine textu [1.53]
18. Sine textu [1.45]
19. Oculus non vedit, nec uris aidivit [1.12]
20. Qui sequitur me, non ambulat in tenebris
21. Qui vult venire post me [1.37]
22. Sine textu [2.01]
23. Justi tulerunt spolia impiorum [1.14]
24. Sine textu [2.14]
 
Voices only
25. Beatus vir qui in sapientia morabatur [1.30]
26. Beatus homo qui invenit sapientium [1.40]
27. Oculus non vedit, nec auris vigilandum [1.30]
28. Justus cor meum tradet [1.37]
29. Expectatio justorum laetitia [1.36]
30. Qui sequitur me, non ambulat in tenebris [1.34]
31. Justo tolerant spolia impiorum [1.36]
32. Sancti mei qui in isto seculo [1.52]
33. Qui vault venire post me [1.56]
34. Serve bone et fidelis [1.39]
35. Fulgebunt justi sicut lilium [1.23]
36. Sicut rose inter spinas [1.33]