Quod mitis sapiens nulli virtute secundus
Missa Super Oeniades Nymphae
Quare tristis es anima mea?
Stella, quam viderant Magi
Ut vigilum densa silvam cingente corona
Cinquecento Renaissance Vokal [Terry Wey & Jakob Huppmann (countertenors), Tore Tom Denys & Thomas Künne (tenors), Tim Scott Whiteley (baritone), Ulfried Staber (bass)]
Recorded 2-4 February 2007 in Kloster Pernegg, Waldviertel, Austria
Reviewed by: William Yeoman
Reviewed: September 2007
CD No: HYPERION CDA67640
Duration: 61 minutes
The first thing that impresses you is the beauty and richness of the sound. Cinquecento is multicultural, its six members (all men) coming from Austria, Belgium, England, Germany and Switzerland, but the timbres of the voices, while distinctive, are beautifully blended. The often sterile quality of some English, all-male, one-voice-to-a-part ensembles, like the Orlando Consort, is thankfully absent.
This is Cinquecento’s second recording for Hyperion, and is every bit as fine as its first (“Music for the Court of Maximilian II” – CDA67579). The music here is all by Jacob Regnart (c1540-1599), and the Hapsburg connection remains intact: Regnart also worked for the emperors Maximilian II and Rudolf II, as well as the Archduke Ferdinand.
Regnart’s compositional style is typically late-Renaissance, though perhaps more conservative than Orlandus Lassus’s. The recoding begins and ends with two superb motets written in honour of Jahannes Trautson and Maximilian II respectively; the central work is the parody mass for six voices “Missa Super Oeniades Nymphae”. Six sacred pieces follow.
Cinquecento lavish as much care and attention to detail on the word-painting as Regnart did, whether it be rhythmic, melodic, harmonic or in terms of texture. The meaning of the first verse (on the words “gloria magna tuae”) rings out majestically, while the second verse starts gently but builds almost imperceptibly to a climax on the final gorgeous chord. In the same verse, there’s also an example of a subtle awareness of timbre produced by different sounds with the crowded sibilants in the line “ut sis Eois notus et Hesperiis”. Thus the precedent is set for the rest of the disc.
The “Missa” is very fine, with much use of antiphony and contrasts between polyphonic and chordal textures, as was the norm. The ‘Kyrie’ is sung with crispness and dignity, while the “Qui tollis” of the ‘Gloria’ is full of a sweet expressivity. In the ‘Gloria’, Cinquecento imbues the “Et incarnatus” with a tremendous sense of mystery; the ‘Sanctus’ and ‘Agnus Dei’, shot through with peals of bells, are likewise treated with great sensitivity to the import of the words.
The remaining works are likewise superb, both from the point of view of the music and its performance. “Exsultent iusti” is joyful yet restrained, while Regnart’s ambiguous setting of Psalm 42 (43):5, “Quare tristis es anima mea?” is suitably tense and searching. Also of note is the dark solemnity of “Lamentabatur Jacob”. The spacious 6-voice “Ut vigilum densa silvam cingente corona”, which ends the disc, is made to blaze brightly.
The generous, though not overly so, acoustic of the Pernegg Monastery seems perfect for an ensemble of this size, although that’s hard to judge accurately as the recording is somewhat compressed due to a high transfer level. Recording producer Stephen Rice’s booklet notes are, however, excellent.