The vocal ensemble Cinquecento has previously focused on shadowy composers like Regnart, Schoendorff and Vaet. Here they unveil some less familiar works of one of the great names in Renaissance music, Orlandus Lassus. Rarities include the parody Mass Dixit Joseph along with a selection of Lassus's more obscure motets, including the Song of Songs poem 'Veni dilecte mi', the joyful 'Deus canticum novum' and the intimate yet florid 'Fallax gratia'. Among familiar works are the influential 'Deus, qui sedes super thronum' and the intensely expressive 'Timor et tremor'.
With just one voice to a part, polyphonic lines are sharply etched and perfectly weighted throughout, rhythms are buoyant and full of momentum. Words cut easily through the texture, throwing into high relief the contrasts and colourful word painting that characterise Lassus's style. The singers point up the bittersweet discords of 'O mors, quam amara est memoria tua' in almost madrigalian fashion, and relish the rhetorical expressivity of 'In me transierunt irae tuae'. As an all-male ensemble, their sound is robust and plangent: compare their version of 'Timor et tremor', for instance with The Sixteen's—rich and velvet toned. Some listeners may miss the more opulent sound of a full choir, but nonetheless the group has a surprising resonance, subtly enhanced by the flowing acoustic of Kloster Pernegg, Austria, and Hyperion's lustrous recording.