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Track(s) taken from CDA67614

Ergone vitae

SATB; Nicolai Gomberti Mvsici Imperatorii, Motectorvm secvndvs qvatvor vocvm (Venice: Scotto, 1541)
author of text
Ad Amorem

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: 7 minutes 11 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)
Ergone vitae is unlike any of the other pieces on this recording in being entirely secular in nature. It is a setting of a neo-Latin poem by the brilliant but short-lived Johannes Secundus (Jan Everaerts, 1511–36), on convalescing from an illness and rejecting the life of an invalid. Everaerts’s family were staunch supporters of Charles V—the poet’s father was made President of the States of Holland and Zealand, and finally President of the Council at Mechlin, one of the most important posts in the Netherlands—and it would seem that Johannes encountered Gombert at, or at least via, the court. Although still composed in imitative counterpoint, the motet displays a difference in style from the sacred pieces, with a more fluid attitude to the text, which is generally set in a less melismatic way, enhancing its audibility. The setting of the phrase ‘Sparge puer, resonante nervo’ (‘hurl, boy, with twanging bow-string’) is, if not madrigalian in its response to text, certainly more direct than Gombert was apt to be in an ecclesiastical setting. Just as in his French chansons an imitative style was harnessed to a lighter subject matter, here the secular subject occasions a less weighty setting than Gombert’s norm.

from notes by Stephen Rice © 2007

Exclusivement profane, Ergone vitae se distingue de tous les autres motets de cet enregistrement en mettant en musique le poème néo-latin qu’un brillant auteur trop tôt disparu, Johannes Secundus (Jan Everaerts, 1511–1536), consacra à la convalescence et au rejet de la vie d’invalide. Les Everaerts étaient des féaux de Charles Quint—le père du poète fut nommé président des états de Hollande et de Zélande, avant de finir président du conseil de Malines, l’un des principaux postes de Pays-Bas—et Johannes aurait rencontré Gombert sinon à la cour, du moins par son biais. Quoique composé en contrepoint imitatif, ce motet se démarque des pièces sacrées par une fluidité accrue envers le texte, généralement mis en musique de manière moins mélismatique, ce qui le rend plus audible. Si elle n’apporte pas une réponse madrigalesque au texte, la mise en musique de la phrase «Sparge puer, resonante nervo» («projette, enfant, avec une corde de boyau résonante») est sans nul doute plus directe que ce que Gombert pouvait se permettre dans une composition ecclésiastique. Comme dans ses chansons françaises, où il appose un style imitatif à un sujet léger, Gombert applique ici au thème profane un traitement moins pesant qu’à l’accoutumée.

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

Ergone vitae ist anders als die anderen Stücke auf dieser Einspielung von ganz und gar weltlicher Art. Es ist eine Vertonung eines neulateinischen Gedichts des brillanten, jung verstorbenen Poeten Johannes Secundus (Jan Everaerts, 1511–36) über die Genesung von einer Krankheit und der Absage an das Leben als Invalide. Everaerts’ Familie waren treue Anhänger Karls V.—der Vater des Dichters wurde Präsident der Staaten Holland und Seeland, später Vorsitzender des großen Rats von Mechelen, einer der bedeutendsten Posten in den Niederlanden—und es scheint, dass Johannes Gombert am Hofe oder zumindest durch den Hof begegnete. Obwohl auch in imitativem Kontrapunkt komponiert, weist die Motette einen von den geistlichen Stücken verschiedenen Stil auf, mit einer flüssigeren Einstellung zum Text, der generell weniger melismatisch gesetzt wird, um ihn verständlicher zu machen. Die Vertonung der Phrase „Sparge puer, resonante nervo“ („Schleudere, Knabe, mit schwirrender Bogensehne“) ist zwar noch nicht ganz madrigalisch, aber gewiss direkter als Gombert in einem kirchlichen Satz gewesen wäre. Wie in seinen französischen Chansons imitativer Stil für leichtere Sujets ausgenutzt wurde, so erfährt hier ein weltliches Thema eine weniger gewichtige Vertonung als es Gomberts Norm war.

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

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