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GRAMOPHONE (08/2015)
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Capella de Ministers

Code-barres / Barcode : 8216116215364


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Reviewer: Edward Breen

Marking the 500th anniversary of the Council of Constance (1414-18), which ended the Papal Schism, this fascinating new programme of laments from Capella de Ministrers explores ‘Death and Apocalypse in the Middle Ages’ through sources as diverse as court entertainments and the apocalyptic sermons of the Dominican Friar Vincent Ferrer. The result is a musical setting of the Officium defunctorum recovered from ancient Hispanic liturgy, including Ordinary movements from the Misa de Barcelona and Misa de Notre-Dame de Kernasceléden interwoven with a varied selection of late-medieval works on similarly eschatological themes.


The liturgical music is infused with colourfully spiced instrumental playing. In particular, the Kyrie (Misa de Barcelona, c1360) combines taut ensemble singing with improvisatory flourishes of a style now less common in performances of Machaut’s near-contemporary cycle. The performance has all the usual hallmarks of versatility and quality that we have come to expect from this Valencia-based ensemble and is rather spectacularly festive.


The use of the exaquier – an early plucked keyboard instrument – in the miscellaneous non-liturgical items brings a pungent immediacy to their textures and sharply delineates them from the Requiem movements. Perhaps too sharply on occasion: for instance, Ples de tristor opens with solid chords, an abrupt aesthetic shift after the smooth and subtly inflected plainchant that precedes it. Yet Elisa Franzetti’s assured performance of this Planh by one of the last Troubadours is as beguiling as it is vocally stunning. Her warm tone invokes an exciting range of colours. Countertenor Gabriel Diaz also employs a host of ravishing hues in his spectacular performance of the somewhat apocalyptic conductus Audi Pontus, audi tellus, which contains one of the most chilling exclamations of ‘Heu miser!’ on disc.


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