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Hyperion Records

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Virgin and Mary Magdalen at the foot of the Cross, detail from the Isenheim Altarpiece (c1510/15) by Matthias Grünewald (c1480-1528)
Musée d’Unterlinden, Colmar, France / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67848
Recording details: March 2010
Merton College Chapel, Oxford, United Kingdom
Produced by Antony Pitts
Engineered by Justin Lowe
Release date: January 2011
Total duration: 10 minutes 2 seconds

'The setting of Mass for the Dead understandably gets top billing, for despite its modest scale and simplicity, it is an affecting piece, as its opening movements signally testify. The Brabant Ensemble sing this with admirable clarity, assisted by a very transparent acoustic and recorded sound image' (Gramophone)

'This is the second recording by The Brabant Ensemble devoted to Clemens … together they go some way to convincing us that he was one of the better composers of the 16th century … here we get good tuning and chordal singing that glows from within' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The disc admirably addresses a gap in the market with highly expressive performances of a beautiful requiem and a series of exquisitely crafted motets, which illustrate powerfully Clemens' great gift for both melody and harmonic adventurousness and intensity of expression' (Early Music Review)

'Sympathetically recorded and with excellent booklet notes by Rice, this is another fine release by an ensemble that could be seen as stemming from the same tradition as The Tallis Scholars, i.e a chamber choir bringing before the public little-known repertoire, the worth of which it passionately believes in. It does it every bit as well, too' (International Record Review)

Tristitia et anxietas
4vv; Liber primus ecclesiasticarum cantionum quatuor vocum (Antwerp: Susato, 1553). RISM 1553/8
author of text
various Biblical and non-Biblical sources; after Lamentations, Psalm 112 (113): 2

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Tristitia et anxietas has long been known to students of Renaissance polyphony for its apparent influence on the setting of the same text by William Byrd, first noted by Joseph Kerman; however, like the majority of motets it does not appear to have been recorded before now. Its anguished tone is set by the opening imitative point which, in the manner of Clemens’s distinguished older colleague Nicolas Gombert, winds slowly and tortuously around a single pitch, with an opening movement of a semitone. Other obvious emotional tugs are provided at ‘occupaverunt’ (‘have invaded’) with another semitone; ‘Moestum factum est cor meum’ (‘My heart has been made dejected in grief’), which is homophonic and uses the fauxbourdon texture that frequently signals heightened emotion in this repertory; and most obviously at ‘Vae mihi’ (‘Woe unto me’) with block chords high in the choir’s range, and chromaticism that is not written in, but forced by the rules of musica ficta, producing a wrenching harmonic shift that underlines the anguish conveyed by the text. The second section of the piece changes its outlook entirely, trusting in God’s care for those who hope in him (‘sperantes in te’—again highlighted with homophony). Finally the text, emulating Job in its willingness to bless God despite extreme misery, states ‘may your name be blessed now and always’: the final phrase ‘et in saecula saeculorum. Amen’ is subjected to sequential treatment, with a waterfall-like figure that Clemens evidently felt bore repetition in toto.

from notes by Stephen Rice © 2010

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