What is music coming to? With a song called "I'm Called Mister Erection," lyrics including the deathless line "it's a piece of dog sh*t," melodies so primitive that they're infantile, and harmonies so primitive that they barely exist, it's hard to imagine ever calling this stuff music. But not only was this stuff written by Orlande de Lassus, one of the greatest of the late-Renaissance composers, he even saw fit to publish most of it. Apparently, despite his transcendent motets and his exquisite madrigals, Lassus had a sense of humor and all listeners can do is to take it or leave it. But if they decide to take it, they have to take it with a grain of salt and a sense of humor.
Rinaldo Alessandrini and the Concerto Italiano clearly decided to take it with a great sense of humor because this is one of the funniest discs of so-called serious music ever released. That this is the same rarified vocal ensemble that has released so many emotionally nuanced recordings of Monteverdi's madrigals is hard to believe, but clearly the singers are enjoying their work and their enjoyment is infectious. Although the singers still sing with wonderful expressivity and tremendous flexibility, the Concerto Italiano is not shy about making the sound of its voices match the crude, rude, and lewd music. The result is a terrific disc, but certainly not for listeners with delicate sensitivities.