, March 2012
these are superb performances by the Huelgas Ensemble…
The Huelgas Ensemble offer a superior blend of shimmering voice qualities and dynamics, with heaven-sent, minimally contrapuntal lines beautifully managed. For those familiar with only a few works of this period, it might be ventured that Brumel’s Mass is at times reminiscent of Thomas Tallis’s famous Spem in Alium, or Striggio’s recently re-discovered Missa Sopra ‘Ecco Sì Beato Giorno’, though it does predate them by several decades. In part this is due to the intricate, strikingly detailed sonic tapestry woven by the parts, but also to the magical wave-like nature of the slow-moving harmonies, strangely sensuous and ultimately, in the mesmerising three-part Agnus Dei, exalting.
The Dies Irae sequence comes from Brumel’s Requiem Mass and is thought to be the first known polyphonic setting of the text. The melody is familiar to modern audiences through the likes of Liszt and Berlioz, though it is somewhat less tumultuous in Brumel’s hands! Yet what it lacks in Hadean foreboding it makes up for in gravity: Brumel’s deliberately archaic idiom heightens the piety but deepens the sombreness. Nonetheless, the Sequentia is an enthralling work of great profundity and beauty, delicately coloured by brass accompaniment and some polyphonic improvisation, peering back to Léonin and Pérotin with a mixture of reverent nostalgia and serene introspection. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review