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Duarte LOBO (c.1565-1646)
Masses, Responsories and motets
Audivi vocem de clo (Liber Missarum, 1621) [2:42]
Missa Sancta Maria (Liber Missarum, 1621) [19:33]
Hodie nobis clorum rex (Opuscula, 1602) [4:32]
Hodie nobis de clo (Opuscula, 1602) [1:49]
Quem vidistis pastores? (Opuscula, 1602) [3:08]
O magnum mysterium (Opuscula, 1602) [2:39]
Beata Dei genitrix (Opuscula, 1602) [1:53]
Sancta et immaculata (Opuscula, 1602) [3:06]
Beata viscera (Opuscula, 1602) [2:54]
Verbum caro (Opuscula, 1602) [3:58]
Missa Elisabeth Zachari (Liber Missarum, 1621) [21:50]
Alma redemptoris mater (Opuscula, 1602) [2:12]
Cupertinos/Lus Toscano
rec. Basilica do Bom Jesu, Braga, Portugal, 24-26 July 2019. DDD. 
First recordings except first and last tracks.
Texts and translations included.
Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from hyperion-records.co.uk. Also available on CD and in 16-bit and 24/192 download formats.
HYPERION CDA68306 [70:47]

If there is anything more enthrallingly beautiful than the sacred polyphony of sixteenth-century England, it’s to be found in Iberian music of the period and slightly later. Victoria, of course, but the two Lobos, the Spaniard Alonso and the Portuguese Duarte, are up there with the finest. Duarte is sometimes spelled with a circumflex accent to distinguish the two: Duarte Lbo. He seems to have had an international reputation in his time, his music printed by Plantin in Antwerp, and he was influential on many of the next generation of Portuguese composers. Most of them are now just names, with just the odd work recorded in collections; perhaps Hyperion might bring us some of their music?

If it sounds ungrateful to be asking for more, let me add at once that when Hyperion bring us two Mass settings by Duarte, in first recordings, it’s good cause for rejoicing. When I last encountered Cupertinos – for the first time – in Cardoso’s Lamentations and Responsories for Maundy Thursday and Requiem, that was a Recommended recording, even in preference to another Hyperion recording of similar material on which El Len de Oro are directed by Peter Phillips – Winter 2018-19/2. Though Cardoso’s music has not been neglected, that was – and remains – the only current recording of his 4-part Requiem, so especially recommendable. Richard Hanlon also welcomed that debut album from Cupertinos – review.

It’s not surprising that Cupertinos have gone from Cardoso to Lobo, as The Sixteen did when they combined the two on a recording entitled Renaissance Portugal (COR16032). I reviewed that, too, in Winter 2018-19/2 – it’s back catalogue, dating from 1993, but very worthwhile back catalogue, and it includes a version of Audivi vocem de clo to compare with the new recording.

I also listened again to an earlier Hyperion recording of the music of Lobo and the even more elusive Magalhes (CDH55138, William Byrd Choir/Gavin Turner, download only). That includes Audivi vocem and the 8-part Requiem and, although it’s now more expensive than when I reviewed it, it remains very worthwhile. (Lossless download or Archive CD from hyperion-records.co.uk.) There’s also a very fine account of Audivi vocem on a recording of Spanish and Portuguese seventeenth century sacred music by the choir of The Queen’s College, Oxford, and Owen Rees (Guild GMCD7323 – review).

For a small group – three sopranos, two each of altos, tenors and basses – Cupertinos make a bold sound. I don’t mean to sound patronising when I comment on how cleanly they hit the notes – I’ve heard too many Iberian choirs mangle the music of their own peninsula, but recordings like this, their earlier Cardoso, and the Hyperion album with El Len de Oro show how far performance style has progressed, and can now be compared with the very best.

Audivi vocem is the first track on the new recording and, though the text is associated with funerals, Cupertinos take it at quite a pace; faster than the Marian Consort and Roy McCleery on a recording of the music of lamentation from renaissance Portugal (Delphian DCD34205) and Bo Holten with Ars Nova (Portuguese Polyphony Naxos 8.553310). Turner, on Hyperion, takes the piece more slowly still, yet there is no lack of reverence in the singing of Cupertinos, or of The Sixteen, who also take the music at a fast pace.

In any case, the text speaks of hope and consolation: ‘From henceforth blessed are the dead who die in the Lord … for they rest from their labours’, so there is no need to be too lugubrious. Not that the three slower recordings are lugubrious, but, all in all, there is a strong case for keeping this short piece moving.

It would have been good to have had at least one recording of Audivi vocem from a choir with boys’ voices on the top line – say, from Westminster Cathedral Choir, who have recorded the music of Alonso Lobo, but not that of Duarte. Perhaps we may hope for a recording of Duarte’s music from them; it would be good to hear them in one or both of the Masses which form the main content of the new Hyperion, or, better still, more unrecorded repertoire.

That said, the lack of boys' voices is not a huge issue.  I really cannot criticise Cupertinos in these two Masses. The music of Portugal in the early seventeenth century would have sounded very conservative to a Venetian who had heard Monteverdi, but that in no way detracts from its power and beauty, both aspects to be found in good measure in these performances. Indeed, far from being unadventurous, the music often goes well beyond the precepts of the theorists, while remaining broadly in line with them. The size of the group means that the words of the texts can mostly be heard – not always possible with compositions of this complexity – yet when the music swells, like an approaching wave, there is plenty of strength in the singing.

Perhaps with an eye on the Christmas market, the space between the two Masses is filled with performances of responsories for the Nativity period, only recently published and, like the Masses, recorded for the first time. All are short but attractive, and the recording is rounded off with the brief 8-part Alma Redemptoris Mater, the antiphon for the period from Advent Sunday to Candlemas, the only other work otherwise available; like Audivi vocem it’s also included on the Guild recording from Queen’s College, Oxford.

I still return most often to the music of Victoria among the Hispanic composers of the renaissance, and that’s where I recommend any newcomers to start to appreciate the music of the period. It’s more dramatic than the music of his contemporary Palestrina and, though Organ Morgan, in Under Milk Wood, nominated the latter as second only to Bach, in some moods I prefer Victoria. There are several good recordings of his best-known work, the Requiem, from The Sixteen on SACD (CORSACD16033), or The Tallis Scholars (CDGIM205, 2 CDs for the price of one, with Duarte Lbo, Requiem, etc.) for example.

The Gimell twofer offers an excellent chance to compare the music of Victoria with that of the two Lobos, and serves to remind the listener that, different though they are, the music of Duarte can hold its own in the company of the others. The performances by Cupertinos serve to strengthen the case for his music; the very fine performances are supported by first-rate recording and the usual excellent Hyperion presentation. Another recording to lift the spirits.

Brian Wilson



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