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From Darkness into Light
Antoine BRUMEL (1460-1513)
The complete Lamentations of Jeremiah for Good Friday [42:26]
“P.M.” manuscript, Florence, 1559 (Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, MS II.I.285)
and music from Biffoli-Sostegni manuscript, Florence, 1560 (Brussels, Bibliothčque du Conservatoire Royal, MS 27766) 
Musica Secreta/Deborah Roberts & Laurie Stras
rec. 2019, St Michael the Archangel, Southampton, UK
Texts and translations included.
OBSIDIAN CD719 [73:42]

The reading or chanting of sections of the Lamentations of Jeremiah at Matins on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday formed an important part of the Latin rite for Holy Week; it was even given a boost by a papal decree in 1955, which restored Matins from being sung by anticipation the previous evening to its place in the morning. Alas, that was just before the arrival of the shopping-basket language which took over Roman Catholic worship and replaced the beautiful English of Cranmer in Anglican usage.

Different selections from the Lamentations were prescribed at different times and in different places; Brumel’s selection corresponds with fifteenth-century Venetian usage, 28-15 and 31-11 and to the readings prescribed by that 1955 decree, as printed in a Holy Week Manual for which I see that I paid 3/6 (£0.18) in 1961. The original Hebrew text is an acrostic poem, each verse beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, Aleph, Beth … Traditionally, as here, the Hebrew letters are incorporated into the setting, elaborated like the initial letters of an illuminated manuscript. The Good Friday selection begins with the letter Heth.

Brumel’s setting has been known in fragmentary form for some time, but it’s here presented in a new and considerably extended form, as edited by Laurie Stras. The Tallis Scholars sing just two verses of the Lamentations and the refrain ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem return to the Lord your God’ on their recording of Brumel’s music, a valuable recording for the composer’s best-known work, the ‘Earthquake’ Mass, based on the motet Ecce terrę motus, another work appropriate to Holy Week and especially to Good Friday (CDGIM026). With the appearance of the new Obsidian, the alternative Tallis Scholars 2-CDs-for-1 set which includes the Earthquake Mass but not the Lamentations now becomes an even more attractive proposition (CDGIM211 – The Tallis Scholars sing Flemish Masters: Isaac, Ockeghem, de Rore and Brumel).

No prestidigitation or reconstruction was necessary to present the Lamentations in their full glory: the verses were literally hiding in plain sight and had been mistakenly regarded as accidental recapitulation in the manuscript.

The Tallis Scholars sing the music with a mixed-voice ensemble. Musica Secreta, an all-female ensemble, transpose some of the music as it would have been sung in convents – as, indeed, much of Vivaldi’s music would have been sung by the girls of the Pietą two centuries later. Organ and viol very discreetly fill in the illusion of the lower parts. It’s very well done, but I would like to hear this new complete text sung with men’s voices on the lower parts.

Musica Secreta have recorded for a variety of labels; some time ago I reviewed their Divine Art album Sacred Hearts, Secret Music, with music by Palestrina and de Rore (DDA25077). I found some problems with the presentation of the booklet, but very much enjoyed the performances, as also on their appearance on other albums on Linn, Amon Ra and Divine Art which I mentioned in that review. My one reservation was that the singing was a trifle bland in places. The singing here is, perhaps, a trifle cool for some tastes, delicate and vibrato-free rather than impassioned, but I didn’t find that a major hindrance to my appreciation. In any case, the new recording is indispensable for those wanting to hear the complete version of the music and unlikely to be challenged for some time, if ever.

The rest of the programme may not be relevant to Passiontide, but it adds to the desirability of the recording. Some of the works are not otherwise currently represented on record.

Some time ago I took Hyperion to task for some misconceptions in translating the Lamentations, wrongly assuming that words in medieval Latin always meant what they had in classical times. In the Obsidian booklet, it’s not so much misconception as some rather awkward English; the most logical thing would be to follow the translation of the Douai Bible, based on the Latin Vulgate. That used in the booklet seems to be an amalgam of the Douai, King James and Jerusalem bibles, but the main thing is that it gives the correct meaning of the Latin.

This first recording of Brumel’s complete Lamentations, newly restored, supersedes earlier versions.

Brian Wilson

Antoine BRUMEL
Lamentationes Hieremię Prophetę, in feria sexta Parasceve
Heth. Cogitavit Dominus [6:20]
Joth. Sederunt in terra [8:16]
Lamed. Matribus suis dixerunt [7:04]
Nun. Prophetę tui viderunt [12:34]
Gimel. Circumędificavit adversum me [8:12]
Ave maris stella [5:00]
JOSQUIN des Prez (1450-1521)
Recordare virgo Mater [4:59]
Antonio MORO (1517-1577)
Sancta Maria succurre miseris [2:36]
Jesus autem cum ieiunasset [1:58]
Multiplicati sunt qui tribulant me [1:49]
Loyset COMPÈRE (1445-1518)
Paranymphus salutat virginem [3:14]
Verbum caro factum est a4 [4:35]
Salve Regina [6:59]

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