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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: 4 minutes 59 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)

Vae tibi Babylon et Syria
composer
4vv; Novum et insigne opus musicum (Nuremberg: Berg & Neuber, 1558). RISM 1558/4
author of text
after 2 Esdras 16: 1-2

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The short (and very unusual) motet Vae tibi Babylon et Syria takes a text from the Apocryphal book 2 Esdras concerning the impending annihilation of cities hostile to the Jews. The inhabitants of these cities are invited to clothe themselves with sackcloth and hair shirts: this line of text is extended over nearly two minutes of music, in which the somewhat aggressive stance of the piece’s opening is gradually wound down towards the subdued ‘plangite filios vestros’ (‘weep for your children’). The motion of the bass part is slowed to semibreves and breves while the upper three voices gradually sink sequentially over the range of an octave. The evidently deliberate reduction of tension in this passage creates a sense of exhausted despair that can only partly be broken for the final text ‘quoniam appropinquavit perditio vestra’ (‘for your destruction is drawing near’).

from notes by Stephen Rice © 2010

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