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JACQUET of Mantua (c.1483–1559) Surge Petre [9:16] Missa Surge Petre [32:54] Ave Maria a 3 [2:29] O vos omnes [10:44] In illo tempore … Non turbetur [8:02] O pulcherrima inter mulieres [2:56] Domine, non secundum peccata nostra [10:12]
The Brabant Ensemble/Stephen Rice
rec. Church of St Michael and All Angels, Summertown, Oxford, 2014. DDD
Booklet includes texts and translations HYPERION CDA68088 [76:33]
Reviewed as 24/96 download from hyperion-records.co.uk,
with pdf booklet: also available on CD and as mp3 and 16-bit downloads.
This is a real discovery. Jacquet or Jachet of Mantua is almost unknown,
though John Milson in an article in the Oxford Companion to Music
names him as one of the most important composers of church music in
the generation before Lassus and Palestrina. Palestrina employed at
least two of Jacquet’s motets as the basis for his own masses: Aspice
Domine and Salvum me fac. He seems to have failed to gain
due recognition because he was confused with his contemporary Jacquet
de Berchem, to whom In illo tempore (track 9) has also been attributed.
To the best of my knowledge everything here is receiving its first recording.
Certainly there are no other recordings dedicated wholly to Jacquet’s
music in the current UK catalogue, although there was a Calliope recording
of his Lamentations, performed by the eponymous Ensemble Jachet
de Mantoue, in 2003. His 6-part Dixit Dominus and 4-part Lętatus
sum and Nisi Dominus, all in collaboration with Adrian Willaert,
feature on a very fine Ricercar recording of Willaert’s Vespers
for the Virgin Mary (RIC325 – review
Roundup September 2012/2).
His Dum vastos Adrię fluctus appears on a CD mainly of Richafort’s
Requiem (Tributes to Josquin Desprez, Signum SIGCD326
I missed this when it was released because I was reviewing
the Harmonia Mundi reissue of the Richafort at about the same time and
comparing it with the Hyperion recording. I’m sorry that I did because
at first hearing it’s strongly competitive with those two other versions,
but I hope to include a review of the 24-bit download from hyperion-records.co.uk
in a future edition of Download News.
The 6-part Missa Surge Petre is a parody mass based on Jacquet’s
own motet of that name, also in six parts, a performance of which opens
the proceedings. There are five other such parody masses: if they are
all as fine as this, I very much hope that someone, perhaps Hyperion,
will give us more, though half of them have not yet been edited. In
order for that to happen it would first be necessary for this recording
to sell like hot cakes. If that sounds as if I’m plugging it, I am,
though my interest in doing so is purely on altruistic and artistic
The motet and mass are particularly sumptuous works, perhaps because
they both relate to Saint Peter, the patron saint of Mantua Cathedral
where Jacquet was first a singer from around 1526, then maestro di
cappella. The text of the motet is a conflation of passages from
Acts – Peter’s escape from prison following an earthquake, the epistle
for the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul – and Jesus’s words to him in
the Gospels. The treatment is luxurious rather than dramatic: though
by no means divorced from the meaning, like most settings before the
reformation and counter-reformation, the music takes precedent over
the words. Especially in the six-part settings on this recordings, it’s
by no means easy to distinguish the words anyway.
Nor does Jacquet’s Passiontide motet O vos omnes attain the sheer
power of Gesualdo’s setting of those words, but few works from this
period can match the passion of Gesualdo. It is, however, as befits
the occasion, a much sparer work than Missa Surge Petre, in four
parts only, and it would certainly be effective as sung in Mantua Cathedral
during the Reproaches on Good Friday.
The following In illo tempore also makes its effect economically.
More economic still are the two works on texts connected with the Virgin
Mary: Ave Maria and O pulcherrima inter mulieres, the
latter taken from the Song of Songs where the poetic outpourings of
two lovers have been interpreted as Jesus and his Church or Jesus and
Mary. Both of these three-part works are sung by sopranos and altos
only, two upper parts and one lower, with a restricted vocal range and
sounding appropriately ethereal rather than sumptuous.
Another six-part work rounds off the programme but here again the style
is quite different from both the sumptuousness of the Mass and the ethereal
nature of the Marian texts. This text for Ash Wednesday asks God to
forgive our sins and judge us not on merit but according to His mercy.
The setting, though dense, is appropriately earthbound, wearing metaphoric
sackcloth and ashes. Two decades before the time that Jacquet composed
this work, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther had pinned his 95
Theses to the church door at Wittenberg, one of which asserts that the
whole life of a Christian should be one of penitence. I’m sure that
Luther would have approved of this motet, though the music does rise
in line with the hopeful prayer of the last third of the text.
The performances are all that we have come to expect of The Brabant
Ensemble and Stephen Rice. Inevitably in such elaborate unaccompanied
music the tone slips occasionally but not so that you would notice –
I didn’t, but a few listeners with absolute pitch may. That apart, only
those who insist on all-male performances of music of this period will
object. Again, though I would like to hear a male choir such as Christ
Church Oxford – Nimbus, perhaps – or Westminster Cathedral record some
of Jacquet’s music, I would also very much like to hear some more from
With very good recording, especially as heard in the 24-bit version
– at £12 only a little more expensive than the 16-bit download and CD
– and notes of the usual Hyperion high quality, lovers of sixteenth-century
polyphony need have no hesitation.