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Recordings

LASSUS: Lamentationes Jeremiæ Prophetæ; Requiem
20 Nov 2006

LASSUS: Lamentationes Jeremiæ Prophetæ; Requiem

Lassus’s long tenure in Munich in the employ of Duke Albrecht V resulted in an unusually prolific and diverse output.

Lassus: Lamentationes Jeremiæ Prophetæ; Requiem

Collegium Regale. Stephen Cleobury, Director

Signum Classics SIGCD076 [CD]

$19.98  Click to buy

In addition to this sizeable musical legacy, a body of letters from Lassus to Albrecht’s son, Wilhelm, also survives. The letters move between Latin, Italian, French, and German, a lingual range that aptly symbolizes his musical scope, as well, for his liturgical works are joined by Italian madrigals, French chanson, and German Lieder. All in all, a striking example of musical internationalism. Significantly, however, his output is so impressively large that it is easy to concentrate on particular genres, even particular affective moods, and not feel constrained in the choice. Such is the case with this present recording by Stephen Cleobury and Collegium Regale, the choral scholars of the famed Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. The program here is tightly focused on music of lament, including a five-voice setting of the “Lamentations of Jeremiah” (1585) and a four-voice “Requiem” (1578), as well as the motets “In monte Oliveti” and “Vide homo.” Lassus is much at home in this dolorous language—one is quickly reminded of his famous “Penitential Psalms,” as well—and the intensity of its affective substance is deeply moving.

As is the performance. Collegium Regale sings with a generous sound, wonderfully well focused and vowel rich. Their lines unfold with rounded contours that seem both natural and at the same time the product of highly cultivated technical control. And in low sonorities with close harmonic voicing, the blend, like that of a fine trombone choir, is simply exquisite. To savor the sound is in many ways to savor the pieces, for Lassus here often foregoes complex counterpoint in favor of textures that allow the sound to predominate. Thus, the recording is a felicitous match of an ensemble whose sound is irresistible and pieces that repeatedly offer it the chance to shine.

Enthusiasts will find nothing to complain about here. Others may find that the general consistency of much of the program is rather a lot of a good thing. On occasion where the text suggests it—words of derision or defilement, for instance—Lassus will respond with increased animation, a dissonant pang, and so forth—but for the most part, things seem more uniform than not. The enthusiast will, once again, relish it all, and not be tempted to look for diversity. There is, after all, so very much to savor.

Steven Plank
Oberlin College

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