Portuguese vocal ensemble Cupertinos made its disc debut last year with an album centred on Manuel Cardoso’s Requiem. Cupertinos now sheds light on one of the most skilled composers of Portugal’s Golden Age—Duarte Lobo (c1565-1646), who colours an essentially Renaissance idiom with touches of Baroque drama and chiaroscuro. The disc parades several premiere recordings and re-discovered works: Lobo’s parody masses Sancta Maria and Elisabeth Zachariae (both based on music by the celebrated Spanish composer Guerrero) and eight Christmas Responsories, the missing tenor parts of which have been convincingly reconstructed by musicologist José Abreu.
Directed by tenor Luís Toscano, Cupertinos is highly responsive to Lobo’s subtly varied settings which, in turn, reflect the nuances of text and liturgy. The ten singers capture the sense of rapt awe that infuses O magnum mysterium and the jubilant solemnity of Verbum caro. Toscano shapes Beata viscera most expressively, building from its tender opening to a radiant climax, and he throws into high relief the alternating responses of ecstasy and piety in Hodie nobis caelorum rex. In the Sancta Maria Mass, mystery and humility give way to ardent joy, while animated rhythms and a silvery vocal timbre bring the Elisabeth Zachariae Mass to rapturous life. Throughout, the ensemble’s candid, unwavering sound, chiselled diction and incisive articulation reveal Lobo’s masterly contrapuntal writing.