Now that the sixth and last two-disc volume of this wonderful series has been released, music-lovers are also offered the whole set in one box. The result is a handsome package of twelve CDs, still in their original format of two-disc volumes with all their background notes, texts, translations, lavish illustrations and - just in case I forget to mention it later - an almost unimaginable wealth of fabulous renaissance music. One of the benefits of the present package is, of course, the very advantageous price compared to the cost of buying the volumes separately.
The six volumes, issued one by one over the past six years, have already been reviewed in detail on Amazon by me and others, so if you want to know more about the music in each volume you could check out those reviews. For the present collection, I’ll try here to summarise the set’s many fine qualities, and I hope both of my regular readers will forgive some repetition of previous reviews in the following explanation. The Leiden Choirbooks, compiled between 1549 and 1565 and containing more than 350 works for performance by the choir of the Pieterskerk in the city of Leiden in the Netherlands, were somehow miraculously preserved from the outbreaks of iconoclastic fury and destruction of the Reformation period. Since then this invaluable collection of sacred music had remained locked away, virtually forgotten, and certainly not heard or performed for several centuries. But in 2010 the Dutch-based Egidius Kwartet and College, under their director Peter de Groot, embarked on an ambitious project to perform and record a substantial proportion of this great body of works, selecting pieces from each one of the six choirbooks in turn. Composers represented cover three generations of Franco-Flemish masters - namely, the so-called Josquin generation and the next two after that - thus taking us through that extraordinary flowering of genius in polyphonic sacred music which continued into the latter half of the 16th century.
Some of the names represented here will be familiar to renaissance enthusiasts: Josquin, Isaac, Gombert, Willaert, Clemens non Papa, Crecquillon, Manchicourt, Sermisy, Richafort. In addition, however, as is explained at various points in the booklet notes, for their recordings the Egidius Kwartet and College chose to pay particular attention to some of the lesser-known composers appearing in the Choirbooks, and to works which had never been performed, let alone recorded, in modern times. And so the list of composers represented on these discs also includes Joachimus de Monte, Johannes Lupi, Pierre Verdelot, Cornelis Canis, Nicolle des Celliers de Hesdin, Benedictus Appenzeller, Johannes Flamingus, Nicolas Payen, Lupus Hellinck, as well as a number of extremely talented members of the Anonymous family. As will soon be evident to the listener, this decision brings rich rewards because, as it turns out, not one of these composers is a third-rate slouch - and that’s putting it mildly.
Among the most outstanding features of this splendid set are, firstly, the exceptional quality of the music, including the pieces from composers we’ve never heard of until now; the beautifully-judged selection and organisation of the works in each of the two-disc programmes; and the superb sound, cohesion and commitment of the Egidius voices under Peter de Groot’s inspired direction. For reasons stated at the start, this is not the place to describe the music in detail all over again, but instead I’ll just mention a few highlights and favourites of my own. In Choirbook I, the graceful, sunlit motets by Joachimus de Monte are a delight, and the anonymous six-voice Missa Sancta Maria is an irresistible masterpiece. In Book II, I especially love the three Magnificat settings by Clemens non Papa and the anonymous ‘Angelus autem Domini’. For Book III, another Mr. Anonymous brings us a Requiem setting of majestic profundity. Book IV offers a beautifully organised sequence of motets covering the church year, with especially lovely pieces by Crecquillon and Clemens non Papa including both composers’ settings of the Prodigal Son text ‘Pater peccavi’. Book V brings us Thomas Crecquillon’s wonderful ‘Missa Je prens en gré’, paraphrasing Clemens’ chanson setting of a medieval-style courtly love poem, with the Mass composer using the model’s descending motifs of unrequited love to heartbreaking effect. Choirbook VI includes three lovely, very different Mass settings, especially Claudin de Sermisy’s parody Mass based on Richafort’s motet ‘Philomena praevia’ - this in turn treating the text of a beautiful medieval poem by the English friar John Pecham or Peckham. This latter Mass performance is especially effective for its treatment as a full-scale Mass celebration with interspersed hymns, chants and responsories in the manner of the times, all beautifully sung by the various constituent sections of the Egidius singers and a few additional voices.
In addition to all the musical qualities already outlined, presentation of the final result is superb. Eric Jas’ notes to all six volumes are a mine of information and insights, and the box is as handsome as its contents. The six two-disc sets actually make for a tight squeeze in the box, so once you get them out it makes life easier if you avoid pushing them all the way back in – or at least, not all of them at once. If you have at least one of the volumes out at any one time – preferably in your CD player, as you’d probably want to anyway – then there’s no problem. But why am I telling you this ? – if you’ve any sense (and that’s a big ‘if’) you can work it out for yourself. The point is, if you’ve already been collecting the series one volume at a time and so haven’t got the box, that’s no great loss and is probably better for your mental health.
If you’re not yet familiar with the world of the Leiden Choirbooks and would care for a brief taste, you could search for ‘Egidius’ and ‘Angelus Domini’ on YouTube; there you will see and hear the group performing that motet by Joachimus de Monte (from Volume I) with infectious beauty and enthusiasm, oblivious to the passing traffic and trains outside the window in the background. There's also plenty more information to be found on the internet or via Facebook, including websites for the Egidius Kwartet and the Leiden Choirbooks - with a link to a fascinating interview on the project with Peter de Groot, and with wonderful background noise in the form of the Kyrie from the earlier-mentioned Mass by Mr. Anonymous (or, again, search Leiden Choirbooks on YouTube).
Altogether, the Leiden Choirbooks project from Peter de Groot and Egidius is a fabulous store of treasures for music enthusiasts and a monumental tribute to the beauty and depth of genius of the Franco-Flemish school. It would be no exaggeration to say that it makes a unique contribution to the renaissance discography.
- Audio-cd (4 februari 2014)
- Aantal schijven: 12
- Label: Etcetera
- ASIN: B00YJKUZ1Q
- Klantenrecensies: 1 klantbeoordeling
Plaats op Amazon-bestsellerlijst:
#5.841 in Muziek (Top 100 in Muziek bekijken)
- #2 in Koormuziek
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