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Track(s) taken from CDA67614

Virgo sancta Katherina

SSSA; Liber quartus .xxix. musicales quatuor vel quinque parium vocum modulos habet (Paris: Attaingnant, 1534). RISM 1534/6
author of text
Antiphon for Saint Catherine of Alexandria

The Brabant Ensemble, Stephen Rice (conductor)
Recording details: September 2006
Queen's College Chapel, Oxford, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Summerly
Engineered by Justin Lowe
Release date: September 2007
Total duration: 3 minutes 2 seconds


'It's one of very few discs of this repertoire I've been happy to play in its entirety, and then several times since. This is in part a tribute to Gombert … but also to The Brabant Ensemble and Stephen Rice … by encouraging an unusually individual and carefully balanced vocal response, he avoids the pitfalls of relentless consistency and arid elision … there is a welcome and (in this music) novel belief in the power of voices as voices … try the sopranos halfway through Hortus conclusus es for erotic Mariolatry at its most disconcertingly sensual. Arise, make haste, as they sing, and hear this music' (Gramophone)

'The Brabant Ensemble's exploration of the 'forgotten generation' of composers between Josquin and Palestrina is reviving an abundance of unwarrantedly neglected sacred polyphony. Judging by this splendid selection of motets, Gombert's neglect is particularly flagrant. In penitential pieces, such as Aspice Domine and Tribulatio et angustia, his lavish use of dissonance within a smooth-flowing yet intricately imitative style creates an atmosphere of almost unbearably intense and bitter anguish, whether contemplating a city laid waste or beseeching rescue from a foetid quagmire … these shapely and well-paced performances do full justice to Gombert's outstanding talent' (The Daily Telegraph)

'This attractive recording provised an excellent opportunity to wallow in his motets … the music is austere but beautiful, with plenty of anguished dissonances and false relations … the music is well-sung … the performers are evidently passionate about 16th-century Flemish music' (Early Music Review)

'This is impressively accomplished ensemble singing … Rice's own booklet notes provide fascinating insights into the music … it is this intelligent approach to the spirit of the text (there is a glorious moment in Hortus conclusus es when the soprano soars ethereally to the line 'arise, make haste my beloved'), coupled with outstanding tuning and balancing, which makes this such a distinguished group. The Brabant Ensemble are quickly establishing themselves as one of the more impressive English groups specializing in Renaissance music, and this, their fourth CD release, only increases their stature' (International Record Review)

'The sheer quality of his music. These 10 motets are notable for their richly glowing sonorities, their disciplined counterpoints, their intensity of expression and, most of all, their careful tailoring of music to text. There's the darkly erotic intensity of Hortus conclusus es, the angst-ridden, pentitential Tribulatio et angustia … the singing is meticulously balanced and blended, Stephen Rice shaping and pacing each work with exquisite judgement' (The Sunday Times)

'Aspice Domine, Ne reminiscaris, Domine and Tribulatio et angustia mine a rich seam of angst, and receive searing performances here … the singing is brightly supported, the texture crystalline' (Early Music)

'Virtually all of these works project an awe-inducing majesty and solemnity, unfolding over many minutes of nearly cadence-free waves of rich-textured polyphony. Pungent dissonances play an integral role in the overall structure, as do repeated-note fragments and brief melodic segments whose impact can be quite striking, especially when introduced in the treble register and then passed through the other voices. It would be impossible to name a highlight--the magnificent Tribulatio et angustia; the grand Aspice Domine; the profoundly moving Pater noster and Ave Maria--because all of these works and performances are exemplary, both as unique creations and as stylistically informed, modern realizations of some of the greatest, yet-to-be-fully-appreciated music of the 16th century. The 14-voice Brabant Ensemble, whose vibrant, perfectly-tuned sound often gives the impression of a larger group, knows the importance of phrasing, breath control, and long-lined dynamic modulation, all of which are essential to really fire up and fully illuminate these scores. The sound, from what proves to be the ideal acoustics of the chapel of The Queen's College, Oxford, is perfectly balanced to allow us to hear each vocal line clearly while enabling the ensemble to properly resonate. This is a recording that demands and rewards multiple hearings … absolutely essential listening!' (Classics Today)

'This music is stunning, and the performance here is clear and bright, with perfect balance across the voice parts and the sustained lines. Highly recommended' (GScene)

'Les moments à couper le souffle ne manquent pas dans la dernière réalisation du Brabant Ensemble. Les amateurs de polyphonie de la Renaissance se réjouiront de voir apparaître des joyaux tels que Hortus conclusus es, aux invraisemblables chaînes de dissonances, ou une version du Inviolata qui, pour évoquer lointainement un modèle de Josquin, ne se situe pas moins dans un registre d'élégiaque mélancolie où Gombert surpasse tous ses contemporains' (Le Monde de la Musique, France)
The four-voice setting of Virgo sancta Katherina is scored for three treble voices and one alto; although one or two other motets by Gombert are similarly written for boys’ voices, the others are graces for use at table, one ending memorably ‘prosit vobis, Domini!’ (‘good health to you, masters!’). In the restricted vocal compass of the present piece, Gombert makes use of pairs of voices, and a technique of which he was particularly fond is in evidence: the strategic repetition of a single pitch. All four voices enter on a high d", and this pitch is the top of the piece’s range for twenty-three bars, until the phrase ‘urbe Alexandrina’ takes the upper two voices as high as f". Homophony then proclaims St Catherine’s royal birth (‘she was the daughter of King Costas’), before an extended triple-time section, a rare occurrence in music of this period, in which prayers begin to be addressed to the saint. These supplications form the basis of a second homophonic section (‘famularum suscipe vota’), as if to make sure that the request can be clearly heard. Most unusually, the final ‘vota’ ends on a D major chord, with the ‘Amen’ providing, as it were, the resolution of a perfect cadence on the tonic. Were it not for the fact that Virgo sancta Katherina was published as early as 1534, one would imagine it to have been written much later, possibly well after Gombert’s lifetime.

from notes by Stephen Rice © 2007

Virgo sancta Katherina s’adresse à quatre voix: trois dessus et un alto; hormis un ou deux autres motets également pour voix de garçon, Gombert a écrit des grâces, qui, dans un cas, s’achèvent sur un mémorable «prosit vobis, Domini!» («santé à vous, maîtres!»). Dans l’ambitus restreint de Virgo sancta Katherina, il recourt à des paires de voix et à une technique dont il sera particulièrement friand: la répétition stratégique d’une seule hauteur de son. Les quatre voix entrent sur un ré4 aigu, une hauteur qui marque le summum de l’ambitus de la pièce pendant vingt-trois mesures, jusqu’à ce que la phrase «urbe Alexandrina» entraîne les deux voix supérieures vers un fa4. Puis l’homophonie proclame l’extraction royale de sainte Catherine («elle était la fille du roi Costas») avant une section ternaire prolongée—alors une rareté—, dans laquelle les premières prières sont adressées à la sainte. Ces suppliques forment la base d’une seconde section homophonique («famularum suscipe vota»), comme pour s’assurer une bonne audibilité de la requête. Par extraordinaire, le «vota» final s’achève sur un accord de ré majeur, l’«Amen» offrant, pour ainsi dire, la résolution d’une cadence parfaite sur la tonique. Virgo sancta Katherina fut publiée en 1534 mais semble bien plus tardif, voire postérieur à l’époque de Gombert.

extrait des notes rédigées par Stephen Rice © 2007
Français: Hyperion Records Ltd

Die vierstimmige Vertonung von Virgo sancta Katherina ist für drei Sopranstimmen und Alt gesetzt, und obwohl Gombert ein paar weitere, ähnlich für Knabenstimmen gesetzte Motetten schrieb, sind es Tischgebete, von denen eines sogar denkwürdig mit den Worten „prosit vobis, Domini!“ („euch zum Wohle, Herren!“) schließt. Innerhalb des beschränkten Stimmumfangs im vorliegenden Stück macht Gombert Gebrauch von Stimmpaaren und einer Technik, die er besonders liebte: der strategischen Wiederholung einer einzigen Tonhöhe. Alle vier Stimmen setzen auf dem hohen d" ein, das 23 Takte lang die höchste Note des Stückes bleibt, wenn die Phrase „urbe Alexandrina“ die beiden Oberstimmen bis nach f" hoch führt. Homophonie proklamiert dann die königliche Herkunft der Hl. Katherina („sie war die Tochter von König Costas“) gefolgt von einem in dieser Periode selten vorkommenden ausgedehnten Abschnitt im Dreiermetrum, in dem Gebete an die Heilige beginnen. Diese Bittgesuche bilden die Basis für einen zweiten homophonen Abschnitt („famularum suscipe vota“) als ob sicherzustellen, dass diese letzte Bitte deutlich zu hören ist. Das abschließende „vota“ endet auf einem ungewöhnlichen D-Dur-Akkord, und das „Amen“ liefert sozusagen die Auflösung einer perfekten Kadenz auf der Tonika. Wäre Virgo sancta Katherina nicht bereits 1534 veröffentlicht worden, könnte man glauben, dass es erst viel später, womöglich lange nach Gomberts Tode, geschrieben wurde.

aus dem Begleittext von Stephen Rice © 2007
Deutsch: Renate Wendel

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