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Orazio VECCHI (1550-1605)
Requiem (Missa pro defunctis, Antwerp, 1612) [33:02] Paolo BRAVUSI (1586-1630)
Libera me Domine [3:58] George de LA HÈLE (1547-1586)
Agnus Dei [5:38] Pedro RUIMONTE (1565-1627)
Agnus Dei [5:22] Duarte LOBO (c.1565-1646)
Agnus Dei [4:49]
rec. 1-5 February 2016, Church of Saint-Rémi, Franc-Waret, Belgium GLOSSA MUSIC GCDP32113 [67:00]
Orazio Vecchi’s name pops up from time to time, but he is by no means as well-known as other Italian contemporaries such as Giovanni Gabrieli. Björn Schmelzer’s extensive notes for this release go into some detail on the subject of funerary traditions in Antwerp of the period, suggesting Vecchi’s Requiem as a likely contender for performance at the funeral of Peter Paul Rubens in 1640. The cover image, in fact an early 20th century funeral procession in Wieringen, North Holland, shows a late continuation of the tradition for the wearing of a ‘huik’ or ‘huyck’, something that would have been a familiar sight in Antwerp in the Baroque period.
This is a fascinating subject, further illustrated in the booklet with some church interiors of the time. Vecchi’s music represents a pre-iconoclastic style of opulent polyphony and exuberant settings of the text comparable with those of the likes of Tallis and Palestrina. The requiem text is printed in the booklet both in Latin and English translation. So involved do we become in the mysteries of Baroque concealment and disguise that there is something of a shortage of information on the music in this recording, though the concept appears to be the recreation of the music for Rubens’ elaborate funeral service.
In any case, this is a rich feast of a capella religious church music at a high order of quality. The voices of Graindelavoix create a marvellous tapestry of sound, from gorgeous low basses to nicely balanced trebles. There is a certain amount of swooping between the notes, and while I initially found this off-putting I can also hear how this might be an artistic decision, giving a heightened doloroso effect to the music. Listeners will have to decide for themselves if they can get past this aspect of the performance, and for myself I would be intrigued to hear an alternative with cleaner leaps, just to see if my impression of this as emotive expression is misplaced.
Whatever the subjective quibbles, there are plenty of special moments in this sequence, and with beautiful sonorities and some striking contrasts of colour there is plenty of genuine lamentation going on here. I love the harmonic scrunches that occur from time to time. Antiphonal effects are a feature, with double choirs playing against each other and captured nicely in the stereo of the recording.
Vecchi’s Requiem is supplemented by some remarkable music by George de La Hèle. Taken from his Missa Praeter rerum serium, this is a further example of “incredible polyphony in the midst of the Calvinist Republic in Antwerp that demonstrates the tremendous talent of a forgotten master.” With stunning rarities such as these this release has to come with a warm recommendation.