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GRAMOPHONE (08/2015)
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Reviewer: Fabrice Fitch

Rather like their Hyperion stable-mates The Brabant Ensemble, Cinquecento make a speciality of championing lesser-known 16th-century composers. On this occasion, however, they tackle the most famous composer of his time: this is the second significant recording of Lassus’s music, and the second of his impressive Mass Dixit Joseph, to appear in the last few months. The two versions are instructively contrasted: Odhecaton’s approach was choral, with at least two voices to a part, while Cinquecento consist of soloists. Odhecaton’s warmth and cohesion were very pleasing but Cinquecento’s reading is the more finely detailed and vocally sure-footed, with a more secure sense of architecture. It’s also useful to hear the work on which the Mass is based (Lassus’s motet of the same name) immediately before, which Odhecaton didn’t provide. It aids repeated listening, which is invaluable because Lassus’s Masses often require more than one hearing to make their point. Close attention is rewarded with deepening appreciation; and, personal preference aside, my listening certainly gained in focus for hearing the two readings side by side.


The two programmes are complementary, the rest of Cinquecento’s programme consisting of motets while Odhecaton offer a smorgasbord of genres. The opening Confitemini Domino is a superb piece, splendidly managed by the ensemble. The only possible criticism concerns the predominantly ‘minor’ modal cast of most of the motets, which limits the ensemble’s expressive palette. A couple of livelier pieces wouldn’t have gone amiss, and the concluding syncopations of Timor et tremor, memorable from The Tallis Scholars’ fine anthology many years ago (Gimell, 7/89), might have been nimbler. I would suggest re-programming the running order of this very fine recording, or hearing the motets that follow the Mass separately. An even better solution would be another helping of Lassus.


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