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Penguin Guide, January 2009

This is the first complete recording of Pierre de la Rue’s seven surviving Magnificats as well as three of his settings of Salve Regina. The Magnificat (‘My soul doth glorify the Lord’), representing the Virgin Mary’s thanks to God for her pregnancy, is usually sung at the end of Vespers, preceded and followed by an Antiphon with which it is matched in mode. The Salve Regina is sung at the end of Compline and at special Marian services. Salve Regina IV quotes from chansons of Dufay and Binchois. All the Magnificats and two of the Salve Reginas alternate verses of chant with verses of polyphony, using the same melodic material. La Rue wrote this music over a considerable time period, and there is plenty of variety. The music itself is glorious, and is gloriously sung and recorded. Dipped into, this pair of discs will give much musical satisfaction, for there are excellent notes by Julie Cumming, and full texts and translations.



J. F. Weber
Fanfare, February 2008

Pierre de La Rue (c.1460-1518) has been served very well since the publication of his complete works, with half of the masses already recorded. This is another contribution to his discography, for it includes all seven of the surviving settings of the canticle for Vespers (all the modes except third are used). In addition, we hear three of the six surviving settings of the finally antiphon of the Office, Salve regina, the most frequently used of the four antiphons assigned to four parts of the ecclesiastical year. Of the latter, Salve regina II is the only work of these 10 that is composed in polyphony throughout (the rest alternate chant with polyphony). Two other all-polyphonic settings of Salve regina were once recorded by Bruno Turner (Archiv LP) and Edward Wickham (26-6), but they were both more concise settings. None of these works has ever been recorded, so this collection is entirely new to records.

If you think that seven Magnificats, all set to polyphony in the even-numbered verses, must be too similar to be heard one after the other, this disc demonstrates the opposite. Composing over a span of many years, La Rue strove to make them as different as possible by varying the number of voices on the various verses. The first mode setting uses six voices, the sixth mode five, and the rest four. Even so, there are similarities of treatment, mostly based on textual interpretation, and each setting ends with the full ensemble. In a nice touch, an antiphon of the appropriate mode is sung before and after each canticle. Two of the antiphons are new to records.

Peter Schubert teaches and conducts in Montreal. He demonstrates full control over the ensemble of about 20 voices. He achieves a delicate unfolding of each work in turn. This would be an attractive collection even if it were not rendered so well. As it is, it should enjoy a favored place in early-Renaissance collections. Recommended.



J. F. Weber
Fanfare, February 2008

Pierre de La Rue (c. 1460-1518) has been served very well since the publication of his complete works, with half of the masses already recorded. This is another contribution to his discography, for it includes all seven of the surviving settings of the canticle for Vespers (all the modes except third are used). In addition, we hear three of the six surviving settings of the finally antiphon of the Office, Salve regina, the most frequently used of the four antiphons assigned to four parts of the ecclesiastical year. Of the latter, Salve regina IISalve regina were once recorded by Bruno Turner (Archiv LP) and Edward Wickham (26-6), but they were both more concise settings. None of these works has ever been recorded, so this collection is entirely new to records.

If you think that seven Magnificats, all set to polyphony in the even-numbered verses, must be too similar to be heard one after the other, this disc demonstrates the opposite. Composing over a span of many years, La Rue strove to make them as different as possible by varying the number of voices on the various verses. The first mode setting uses six voices, the sixth mode five, and the rest four. Even so, there are similarities of treatment, mostly based on textual interpretation, and each setting ends with the full ensemble. In a nice touch, an antiphon of the appropriate mode is sung before and after each canticle. Two of the antiphons are new to records.

Peter Schubert teaches and conducts in Montreal. He demonstrates full control over the ensemble of about 20 voices. He achieves a delicate unfolding of each work in turn. This would be an attractive collection even if it were not rendered so well. As it is, it should enjoy a favored place in early-Renaissance collections. Recommended.



American Record Guide, February 2008

“Viva Voce is an excellent mixed choir. Their sound is perhaps an ideal balance between the clarity of certain English mixed groups (such as the Tallis Scholars), which can be somewhat antiseptic, the unique ‘pure’ sound of English boys choirs, and the rather robust sound of some traditional mixed choirs (some of Robert Shaw's recordings)... This is a significant release and ideally demonstrates an aspect of De la Rue's genius not always evident in his more intellectual mass settings and motets. In contrast to many Naxos releases, this one includes text and translations.”



Philip Reed
Choir & Organ, February 2008

Pierre de la Rue (c.1460–1518) was the most significant composer working north of the Alps at the turn of the 15th century. Composing in all the available liturgical forms, he is as important a figure among the Flemish composers as Josquin or Obrecht; his significance is enhanced by the quantity of his surviving output, its quality and its diversity. Under its artistic director Peter Schubert, Viva Voce offers virtually two hours of music by this Flemish master, including the first recordings of seven surviving Magnificat settings and three of La Rue’s six settings of the Marian hymn Salve Regina. Listening to the entire sequence, one is repeatedly struck not only by the beauty of the Canadian vocalists’ even tone and Schubert’s mastery of the style, but by La Rue’s often surprising textures, varied voicing and occasionally unexpected tonal shifts. A fine 2-CD release: at Naxos’s bargain-basement prices, it is a give-away.



Brewer
American Record Guide, January 2008

This release includes what are apparently the first recordings of Pierre de la Rue's seven preserved settings of the Magnificat (only the setting in the third mode cannot now be found). Each of the seven Magnificats is matched with an appropriate chant antiphon and, as contrast, three settings of the Marian antiphon 'Salve Regina' by De la Rue are also included.

Viva Voce is an excellent mixed choir. Their sound is perhaps an ideal balance between the clarity of certain English mixed groups (such as The Tallis Scholars), which can be somewhat antiseptic, the unique "pure" sound of English boys choirs, and the rather robust sound of some traditional mixed choirs (some of Robert Shaw's recordings). Peter Schubert never forces an elaborate emotionalism on his interpretations of De la Rue's intricate polyphony but does seem to have an intuitive sense (perhaps based on his intimate academic knowledge of counterpoint) how to emphasize the interaction and independence of each individual part. Since all of De la Rue's compositions included on these two discs are based on chant, the singers bring a chant-like subtlety to their phrasing of the individual polyphonic parts.

This is a significant release and ideally demonstrates an aspect of De la Rue's genius not always evident in his more intellectual mass settings and motets. In contrast to many Naxos releases, this one includes texts and translations.



New Classik Reviews
Atlanta Audio Society, December 2007

Pierre de la Rue was born in Tournai (now in Belgium) ca. 1452 and died in 1518. In his lifetime, he was a vital link between the old and the new, linking Gregorian plainsong and canonic imitation in singing with the new polyphony, from florid melismas to the newer syllabic writing. All of which sounds dull as dishwater as I’m writing it, but the end result, what one hears, is music of ravishing beauty and expressive power, as perfect and beautifully polished and fitted as the rose window of a Gothic cathedral.

In the present performances of La Rue’s seven surviving settings of the Magnificat (My soul doth magnify the Lord) and three of his settings of the Marian antiphon Salve Regina (Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy) the SATB ensemble Viva Voce, under founder and director Peter Schubert, cultivate the absolute purity of intonation, blend, and polyphonic discipline that fine a capella singing requires. Sixteen voices, four to a part, produce vocal of incredible spiritual beauty that will linger with the listener for a long time afterwards. Recorded, appropriately for the Marian subject matter, at L’Église de la Visitation (Church of the Visitation), Montreal, Quebec, the sonic environment could not have been more perfect.



New Classik Reviews, Atlanta Audio Socient, December 2007

Pierre de la Rue was born in Tournai (now in Belgium) ca. 1452 and died in 1518. In his lifetime, he was a vital link between the old and the new, linking Gregorian plainsong and canonic imitation in singing with the new polyphony, from florid melismas to the newer syllabic writing. All of which sounds dull as dishwater as I’m writing it, but the end result, what one hears, is music of ravishing beauty and expressive power, as perfect and beautifully polished and fitted as the rose window of a Gothic cathedral.

In the present performances of La Rue’s seven surviving settings of the Magnificat (My soul doth magnify the Lord) and three of his settings of the Marian antiphon Salve Regina (Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy) the SATB ensemble Viva Voce, under founder and director Peter Schubert, cultivate the absolute purity of intonation, blend, and polyphonic discipline that fine a capella singing requires. Sixteen voices, four to a part, produce vocal of incredible spiritual beauty that will linger with the listener for a long time afterwards. Recorded, appropriately for the Marian subject matter, at L’Église de la Visitation (Church of the Visitation), Montreal, Quebec, the sonic environment could not have been more perfect.



Baker & Taylor CD Hotlist, November 2007

This is the first time all seven of Pierre de la Rue's Magnificat settings have been recorded together with their antiphons, and it provides an excellent opportunity to hear one of Josquin's few true musical peers at the peak of his compositional powers. The singing is by the mixed-voice Viva Voce choir, who sound spectacular in the warm acoustic of the Eglise de la Visitation in Montreal. Highly recommended to all early music collections. (RA)



Mark Sealey
MusicWeb International, September 2007

Pierre de La Rue (c.1460-1518) was of Josquin’s (c.1440-1521) generation. His compositional skills made use of old and new techniques: imitative textures and new ways to achieve a variety of effects and elicit a variety of emotions in five- and six-part writing for example. Yet for this innovation, remarkably little of his output is in the current catalogue: a Clerks’ Group Gaudeamus (307) CD with the third Salve Regina is closest; masses on Naxos 8.554656, and the rest anthologies. So this is a significant – and warmly welcomed - release.

The singing of Montréal-based VivaVoce is clean and characterful. Because the texture of La Rue is not so dense as that of Josquin, there is a greater emphasis on the individual singers than on unified ensemble sound. It’s more of collection of soloists. Which is not to imply any lack of polish or roughness. In fact, the singing – the voices are very closely miked – is real and personal with a note of purpose and urgency throughout. The bases, of which there are five - as many as the higher registers - are particularly earthy and compelling; the articulation clear and unfussy.

Although Peter Schubert - who studied under Boulanger - founded VivaVoce almost ten years ago, their discography is not a large one yet. The characterful and precise performances on this CD might change that.

La Rue seems likely to have been born some time between 1452 and 1465, depending on whether documentary evidence for Peter van Straaten can be taken as referring (also) to Pierre de La Rue. What we do know is that he worked for most of his life in the Habsburg-Burgundian chapel in the service of the Burgundian Dukes who lived and travelled throughout what is roughly modern Belgium.

It’s said that the tragic life of Marguerite of Austria - a member of the aristocratic family with whom La Rue seems to have had a special link - inspired her fondness for sad chansons, and that this informed some of La Rue’s work. It seems just as probable that his extensive travel with the court offered him a multiplicity of musical experiences and styles on which to draw for his own plangent way of writing. In either case, it was Pierre de La Rue who was the first composer anywhere to complete a series of polyphonic Magnificat settings. They are somewhat restrained and, although there is joy in them, it is a veiled, mild one.

The Magnificat is a biblical song from St. Luke’s Gospel sung by the Virgin Mary at her first awareness of the importance of the child to which she was shortly to give birth. It was first sung to a plain melody at the end of Vespers, preceded and succeeded by antiphons appropriate to the time of year. Since such a melody was chosen to accord with the antiphons’ mode(s), there are eight possible Magnificat ‘tone’s. We know La Rue set all eight throughout his life. He strove to make them all different in feel and atmosphere - but we no longer have the ‘Tone III’. They are for four voices (Tones II, IV, V, VII and VIII), five (Tone VI) and six (Tone I) and employ such techniques as mensuration canon, different registers to evoke singers’ different ages and parallel motion.

The Salve Regina is one of four Marian antiphons for the end of Compline (the final office of the day) and for special Marian services. A favourite of La Rue’s, he composed six such laudatory settings. We hear three on these two discs; they use contemporary chansons and quote melodies by Dufay and Binchois, which must have been an attempt to arrogate to the Habsburg-Burgundian court some of the prestige of those great and greatly-respected musicians. Because of the intimate relationship between these compositions and a composer like La Rue, Peter Schubert has included half a dozen or so short antiphons to reinforce the notion that even the such profound and elevated music as La Rue’s here had a context.

In the case of both the Magnificats and Salve Reginas alternating verses are sung in chant (odd-numbered verses) and polyphony (even) – except for the second Salve Regina: each work, of course, has the text in common. None of the works is longer than fifteen minutes; this is ample time for La Rue to establish, develop and amplify the themes as needed. It also means that the CDs can be – and have been – easily arranged to offer the maximum variety… the three types of music (antiphon, Magnificat and Salve Regina) alternate and make for a very stimulating listening experience given the concentration of formas.

As noted, La Rue’s music isn’t so rich as that of Josquin. It takes but a few minutes of listening to the music on this welcome pair of CDs, though, to appreciate why La Rue was held in such high esteem in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. His music is focused and bright yet profound without being overly complicated. These are qualities which Schubert and VivaVoce have done well to concentrate on communicating.

The recording is clean, if a little on the dry side; the liner notes ample; the texts (those, of course, of the Magnificat and Salve Regina are essentially repeated) are reproduced in Latin and English.



Steven Whitehead
Cross Rhythms, September 2007

“...the sumptuous singing of VivaVoce is a joy to hear, even if the choir does anachronistically include female voices. However, as a reference disc it is a valuable resource and the music is pleasantly tranquil. Those who enjoy medieval chant as an aid to meditation or as ambient background music should find these discs a worthwhile two hours.”



Mark Sealey
MusicWeb International, September 2007

Pierre de La Rue (c.1460-1518) was of Josquin’s (c.1440-1521) generation. His compositional skills made use of old and new techniques: imitative textures and new ways to achieve a variety of effects and elicit a variety of emotions in five- and six-part writing for example. Yet for this innovation, remarkably little of his output is in the current catalogue: a Clerks’ Group Gaudeamus (307) CD with the third Salve Regina is closest; masses on Naxos 8.554656, and the rest anthologies. So this is a significant – and warmly welcomed - release.

The singing of Montréal-based VivaVoce is clean and characterful. Because the texture of La Rue is not so dense as that of Josquin, there is a greater emphasis on the individual singers than on unified ensemble sound. It’s more of collection of soloists. Which is not to imply any lack of polish or roughness. In fact, the singing – the voices are very closely miked – is real and personal with a note of purpose and urgency throughout. The bases, of which there are five - as many as the higher registers - are particularly earthy and compelling; the articulation clear and unfussy.

Although Peter Schubert - who studied under Boulanger - founded VivaVoce almost ten years ago, their discography is not a large one yet. The characterful and precise performances on this CD might change that.

La Rue seems likely to have been born some time between 1452 and 1465, depending on whether documentary evidence for Peter van Straaten can be taken as referring (also) to Pierre de La Rue. What we do know is that he worked for most of his life in the Habsburg-Burgundian chapel in the service of the Burgundian Dukes who lived and travelled throughout what is roughly modern Belgium.

It’s said that the tragic life of Marguerite of Austria - a member of the aristocratic family with whom La Rue seems to have had a special link - inspired her fondness for sad chansons, and that this informed some of La Rue’s work. It seems just as probable that his extensive travel with the court offered him a multiplicity of musical experiences and styles on which to draw for his own plangent way of writing. In either case, it was Pierre de La Rue who was the first composer anywhere to complete a series of polyphonic Magnificat settings. They are somewhat restrained and, although there is joy in them, it is a veiled, mild one.

The Magnificat is a biblical song from St. Luke’s Gospel sung by the Virgin Mary at her first awareness of the importance of the child to which she was shortly to give birth. It was first sung to a plain melody at the end of Vespers, preceded and succeeded by antiphons appropriate to the time of year. Since such a melody was chosen to accord with the antiphons’ mode(s), there are eight possible Magnificat ‘tone’s. We know La Rue set all eight throughout his life. He strove to make them all different in feel and atmosphere - but we no longer have the ‘Tone III’. They are for four voices (Tones II, IV, V, VII and VIII), five (Tone VI) and six (Tone I) and employ such techniques as mensuration canon, different registers to evoke singers’ different ages and parallel motion.

The Salve Regina is one of four Marian antiphons for the end of Compline (the final office of the day) and for special Marian services. A favourite of La Rue’s, he composed six such laudatory settings. We hear three on these two discs; they use contemporary chansons and quote melodies by Dufay and Binchois, which must have been an attempt to arrogate to the Habsburg-Burgundian court some of the prestige of those great and greatly-respected musicians. Because of the intimate relationship between these compositions and a composer like La Rue, Peter Schubert has included half a dozen or so short antiphons to reinforce the notion that even the such profound and elevated music as La Rue’s here had a context.

In the case of both the Magnificats and Salve Reginas alternating verses are sung in chant (odd-numbered verses) and polyphony (even) – except for the second Salve Regina: each work, of course, has the text in common. None of the works is longer than fifteen minutes; this is ample time for La Rue to establish, develop and amplify the themes as needed. It also means that the CDs can be – and have been – easily arranged to offer the maximum variety… the three types of music (antiphon, Magnificat and Salve Regina) alternate and make for a very stimulating listening experience given the concentration of formas.

As noted, La Rue’s music isn’t so rich as that of Josquin. It takes but a few minutes of listening to the music on this welcome pair of CDs, though, to appreciate why La Rue was held in such high esteem in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. His music is focused and bright yet profound without being overly complicated. These are qualities which Schubert and VivaVoce have done well to concentrate on communicating.

The recording is clean, if a little on the dry side; the liner notes ample; the texts (those, of course, of the Magnificat and Salve Regina are essentially repeated) are reproduced in Latin and English.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2007

No one is quite sure when Pierre de la Rue was born, the first accurate record of his life coming in 1492 when he was listed as a member of the Habsburg-Burgundian chapel where he worked for the rest of his active life. As part of court structure he would have travelled widely through Europe, and would have had every chance to hear composition developments in various countries. He would appear to have been a progressive rather than revolutionary composer, extending the use of polyphony to the more elaborate requirements for special feast days. It is believed that he wrote eight settings of the Magnificat with their preceding Antiphones, but the third of these has not survived. They were written for various numbers of vocal line, with probably no other intention than to provide variation. However much 'learned'writing we have on the subject of music from this era, the real truth is that we know very little of the use and motivation that surrounded it, and far less about the style of performance. So we have 'authentic'performing versions - of which this disc is just one example - the Magnificats here receiving their first recording. One is reasonably certain that the singing style will have markedly changed, and is now more beautiful than it would have been at the time of composition. Whether vibrato, that is inherent in today's singers, had been developed is unknown, but its presence helps the hypnotic quality we find in this music. Let me go no further on my hobbyhorse, for as a modern view of ancient music the quality of the mixed male and female voices creates the most attractive musical tracery, the well judged balance ensuring that there is always transparency. Intonation is spotless, and if the music sags in the second Salve Regina, the performances as a whole are most enjoyable. The Canadian-based VivaVoce was founded in 1998 and is an all-purpose choir with a wide repertoire stretching over five hundred years of composition. The sound quality from the Montreal church adds that bloom of reverberation to the sound that we have now grown to love in such recordings.






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