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Hyperion Records

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Fire (1566) by Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67640
Recording details: February 2007
Kloster Pernegg, Waldviertel, Austria
Produced by Stephen Rice
Engineered by Markus Wallner
Release date: August 2007
Total duration: 3 minutes 43 seconds

'The polyphony of Jacob Regnart deserves a disc to itself, and this well-constructed programme is an excellent advocate for his varied and inventive music. With a direct, definite and bright-edged tone Cinquecento's six individuals combine to create a distinctive consort sound … an admirably released and forward singing style. While this forthright approach is exciting, they know well when to rein it in, as they do in the sinuous phrases of the Kyrie' (Choir & Organ)

'The repertory is glorious, important and little known; the sextet's vocal technique is superb, in solo performance as well as in ensemble, and the disc's production values are superb' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Even among the plethora of unjustly neglected 16-century polyphonists currently emerging into the limelight, Regnart stands out as a composer of uncommon talent … the motet Lamentabatur Jacob, whose bleak opening, spare textures and dark chromaticisms plumb the depths of despair, makes a particularly striking impression' (The Daily Telegraph)

'The Vienna-based Cinquecento's full-throated yet supple performance perfectly captures the Mass's joyful mood, with its soaring lines, delectable passages of sinuous polyphony and moments of striking text-expression … its ringing, crisply articulated performances, aided by the magnificent sound engineering in a reverberant church acoustic, are no less powerful and brilliant. The group's blend and balance, illuminated by the firm voices of the two countertenors, are near perfect while preserving each voice's individual character. Above all, it is the intelligence of these performances that is striking … Cinquecento's superb performances, together with producer Stephen Rice's informative booklet commentary, make this an ideal introduction to the music of a still little-heard but important composer of the sixteenth century' (International Record Review)

'The performances by the six male voices of Cinquecento are exemplary in their matching of vocal lines, and in the singers' ability to characterise every idea without ever losing the sense of the overall musical shape' (The Guardian)

'The grave beauty of Regnart's sacred music deserves more friends. The six male voices of Cinquecento, from five European countries, project the Missa Super Oeniades Nymphae and various motets with a clean, forthright delivery, enhanced by a resonant church acoustic. You feel that they've been singing for centuries' (The Times)

'All performers of vocal polyphony can learn from this group … the singing is exemplary: such connection between breath, chest voice and line is rare; the sound is compelling because it is soloistic and collegiate at the same time: ex pluribus unum. The recording is superbly engineered, allowing each voice to run clear within often thick, sinewy textures. Few recordings of polyphony equal the detail and warmth of this recorded sound, which is sheerly beautiful in itself' (Early Music)

'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 … acoustic of the Pernegg Monastery seems perfect for an ensemble of this size, judging by the recording, which is up to Hyperion’s typically high standards. Recording producer Stephen Rice’s booklet note is equally excellent' (ClassicalSource.com)

'This CD itself consists of two state motets, six sacred works, and the centrepiece of the disc, the Missa Super Oeniades Nymphae. The combined effect of this wonderful, timeless music and Cinquecento's brilliant performances can only be described as therapeutic. Sound-wise, with the help of a perfect acoustic setting … the six voices of Cinquecento have produced a recording of seamless, perfectly tuned and harmonically rich vocal music. The soundstage is panoramic and deep, and each voice has an almost three-dimensional place in the mix. It's like surround sound but with just two speakers, but sounds perfectly natural. Listening to recordings like this is something everyone would benefit from—it's like musical time-travel for anyone who wants it. Buy some' (bbc.co.uk)

'Cinquecento nous fait découvrir cet art raffiné, constamment lyrique et personnel, d'une qualité mélodique mémorable. On reste saisi devant les trouvailles sonores qui parsèment les œuvres: on songe aux savoureuses dissonances de 'Et descendit de coelis' de la messe ou aux poignantes inflexions de Quare tristis es … l'ensemble réussit à transformer cette fragilité en avantage dès lors que l'affect de déploration est solicité, comme dans le très réussi Lamentabatur Jacob' (Le Monde de la Musique, France)

Ut vigilum densa silvam cingente corona
composer
6vv
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The state motet Ut vigilum densa silvam cingente corona is one of several dedicated to the Emperor Maximilian II (others are recorded on Cinquecento’s first Hyperion recording, CDA67579). It appears to celebrate a military victory by Maximilian, on his Eastern frontier (referring to ‘Scythian lands’, which typically meant anywhere from Eastern Europe as far as Mongolia). However, Maximilian was not particularly noted for his military success, and it seems possible that the text was intended to put a positive construction on one of several somewhat unsuccessful campaigns against the Turks during the 1560s.

from notes by Stephen Rice © 2007

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