Missa “Ave regina caelorum.” Estate fortes in bello. Istorum est enim regnum caelorum. Domine, non secundum peccata nostra. Pater noster. Lamentationes Jeremiae; Res; Sordes eius. O pulcherrima mulierum
Meinolf Brüser, cond; Josquin Capella
CPO 777 763-2 (64:12
Text and Translation)
Jacques Arcadelt (1507–1568) remains so poorly served on CD that this is at present the only release in print I can find that is devoted solely to his music. (Out of print releases include a Deutsche Harmonia Mundi disc of madrigals with Anthony Rooley and the Consort of Musicke and an Etcetera recording of the Missa
Noe, Noe So
by the Henry’s Eight Ensemble.) For a composer of his stature, this is a degree of neglect that can only be described as scandalous. While little is known of his early life, he is believed to have been of Flemish origins; he is known to have been in Florence by the late 1520s, where he studied with Philippe Verdelot and mastered the classic madrigal style that remains his primary claim to fame. About 1538 he moved to Rome, where he received an initial appointment to the papal choir of St. Peter’s Basilica and some months afterwards to the Sistine Chapel as
(master of the boy choristers), which position he held until 1551. The year 1539 remarkably saw the publication of no less than four books of madrigals by Arcadelt, the first of which enjoyed 45 editions and was far and away the most frequently reprinted edition of such works during the 16th century. In 1551 Arcadelt relocated to France, which he had previously visited on a leave of absence in 1547, and from 1552 until his death was in the employ of the Cardinal of Lorraine. Arcadelt’s output includes some 250 madrigals, 125 chansons, two dozen motets, three Mass settings, three versions of the
Lamentations of Jeremiah
, and one Magnificat. While his sacred music dates mostly from his years in Rome, most of it was subsequently published in Paris, and its compositional style was significantly influenced by that of Jean Mouton (1459–1522) in its avoidance of dense polyphony in favor of a simpler, more declamatory style for setting texts.
In addition to the Mass setting for five voices, this release offers eight of Arcadelt’s motets and one setting of the
. As in its previous releases (see the review by J. F. Weber in 30:2 of a recording of sacred music by Thomas Stoltzer), the Josquin Capella under Meinolf Brüser offers highly polished and beautifully balanced performances. For its part, CPO as usual provides excellent recorded sound and extensively detailed booklet notes. There is a competing recording of the Mass on the Chandos label, performed by the Musica Contexta vocal ensemble supported by the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble, recently reviewed by Weber in 36:2. Regarding the oft-controverted issue of whether such works should be performed unaccompanied or with instrumental accompaniment, Weber commented: “If I would prefer Arcadelt without instruments, the dispute over this issue remains unresolved and Ravens has Gregory Martin to back him up, leaving no question that accompanied Arcadelt is better than Arcadelt unrecorded.” As a onetime brass instruments player who adores Renaissance brass music, I revel in the added instrumental accompaniment. Both recordings are equally well sung; the Chandos version is a reconstruction of a complete Mass for the Feast of the Purification, with interspersed Gregorian chants of the propers and appropriate motets by Palestrina and the extremely obscure Andreas de Silva (fl. c.1520), whereas CPO offers the Mass without additions.
Mass purists and collectors of Arcadelt will definitely want this release; those who collect Renaissance sacred music more generally will doubtless want both discs; recommended in either case.
James A. Altena