Ensemble Orlando Fribourg

De Monte: Motets, Madrigals & Chansons

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Philippus de Monte, one of the Flemish-born composers who traveled south in search of fame and fortune in the sixteenth century, ended up in Vienna at the court of the Holy Roman Empire. He might be regarded as the Viennese counterpart to the Munich-based Lassus, whom he knew and whose music his own somewhat resembles. The music heard here is a bit less compositionally virtuosic than that of Lassus, but the mix of genres -- sacred and secular, with the latter divided into Italian and French sections -- is similar. The rather subdued approach taken by the Ensemble Orlando Fribourg under Laurent Gendre actually fits de Monte's music well. His sacred pieces are pristine works of Franco-Flemish polyphony that look back to Josquin, and even the heated Italian madrigals (tracks 5-9) have a distinctive philosophical flavor that is nicely rendered here. The sound environment is much too chilly and remote for these, however, and the more lighthearted French chansons are rather stolid in their effect. A strong point in the program is the varied range of settings, with a small group of sackbuts and a cornett intermittently appearing in both the secular and sacred pieces (sometimes alone). This helps the listener hear the varied contexts in which these pieces might have been used, and it breaks up the sequence of textures. This is a good introduction to a composer whose music may be missing from many collections. All texts appear in French, German, English, and (where original) Italian or Latin.

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