Brabant Ensemble / Stephen Rice

Jacquet of Mantua: Missa Surge Petre & Motets

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Jacquet of Mantua was a Renaissance sacred composer of the generation after Josquin Desprez, a contemporary and friend of Adrian Willaert. Although born in France, he spent almost his whole life in Italy. The comparative neglect of his music has not been due to quality but extramusical factors, including the untimely death of the scholar who was making a modern edition of his music. Based on the music heard here, one might well conclude that he's more enjoyable than Willaert, whose music sometimes plods through sequences of points of imitation that differ little from one another. The highlight is the Missa Surge Petre (tracks 2-6), a parody mass based on a motet by Jacquet himself, published in 1535. This motet is properly included at the beginning of the program, and it suffuses the mass in both direct and indirect details. Both are sunny, limpid works in a very Josquin-like style, which is saying a lot. Later in the program come some larger motets written for some ceremonial purpose; these too are somber, well proportioned, and quite effective. The Brabant Ensemble, a mixed-gender, adult, English group specializing in underexposed repertory of the middle 16th century, is nearly ideal. One could argue in favor of an even larger group than the 13 singers who participate; the Mantua court of the Gonzagas was a splendid place. But there's no denying the appeal of the absolute clarity they bring to the music, which needs clarity. Hyperion's engineering work is very strong, as usual, and this is a nice find for listeners interested in Renaissance sacred music beyond the usual landmarks.

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