If there is something incomparably magnificent in the sacred motets of Spanish composer Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599), there is also something intrinsically tragic in them as well. If his melodies reach heights of religious ecstasy, his harmonies touch depths of emotional despair. If his counterpoint outlines the face of the sublime, his intervals chart the desolation of the soul. Part of it is the Spanish heart, exalted by a unified religion and expanding empire and crippled by the expulsion of Muslims and Jews and the slaughter of Aztecs and Mayans. Part of it is Spanish music, formed by the austere expressivity of Victoria and nurtured by the severe intensity of Morales, Guerrero's teacher. And part of it is surely these performances by Musica Ficta led by Raúl Mallavbarrena. While the group's four singers are all accomplished in their art -- their intonation is faultless and their execution is flawless -- their tone is doleful and their expression is mournful. While it is impossible not to admire their performances' musicality, it is nearly impossible to enjoy their interpretations' dismal sensibility. Enchiriadis' digital sound is warm and heavily atmospheric.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Missa pro defunctis (ii), for 4 voices|