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GRAMOPHONE (10/2020)
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Reviewer: Fabrice Fitch

Following their Award-winning debut disc for Hyperion (1/19), Cupertinos turn their attention to Manuel Cardoso’s contemporary, Duarte Lobo, not to be confused with the slightly older Spaniard, Alonso Lobo. As it happens, both Lobos based Mass cycles on motets by the master of the previous generation, Francisco Guerrero. Of the two recorded here, Missa Elisabeth Zachariae is the more outgoing and is instantly likeable, but the Missa Sancta Maria is in no way inferior. The disc opens with Lobo’s best-known work, Audivi vocem de caelo, which is rendered very transparently; both Masses are recorded here for the first time, but just as significant a premiere is the set of eight four-voice Christmas Responsories, whose missing tenor part has been reconstructed. For aficionados of Golden Age polyphony, this is all self-recommending.

 That’s all without Cupertinos’ distinctive qualities, which are as evident here as on their debut: a very open sound, with the astringent tones of the female singers very much to the fore thanks to an equally bright acoustic. This programme is more balanced, however, in that solemn and joyful music are equally represented. As to the performances themselves, the presence of two ‘Christe’ sections suggests that the polyphony for the Kyries of both Masses was meant to alternate with chant, but this strong hint isn’t taken up. The approach is as engaging as before but florid passages can sound fluffed (near the start of ‘Quem vidistis, pastores?’), and the singers sometimes pull up short at the style’s trademark dissonances, like a racehorse shrinking before a hurdle (about a minute into the Credo); such moments only work when they’re cleared with confidence.

The booklet notes, translated from Portuguese, are uncharacteristically laboured, and I can see no practical benefit to the listener in Hyperion’s recent habit of giving each subsection of motets and Mass movements a track of its own, which yields nearly 70 of them.


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