The Hilliard Ensemble

Lassus: Motets & Chansons

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As Paul Hillier rightly remarks in his notes to this disc, Lassus did indeed compose almost too much music, that is, he wrote so much music that it is nearly impossible to know where to start. And yet start listeners must: Lassus was clearly one of the two or three greatest of the late-Renaissance composers and arguably the greatest German composer before Bach (even if he was born in what is now Belgium) and not to listen to him is the musical equivalent of not reading Torquoto Tasso. But at least with Tasso, everyone knows to start with Jerusalem Delivered; where should one start with Lassus? Try this disc. Not only are Lassus' motets among his greatest -- and shortest -- religious works, not only are his chansons among his greatest -- and most immediately attractive secular works -- but Hillier and the Hilliard Ensemble perform with incredible beauty of tone, unerring accuracy of intonation, a wonderful sense of rhythm and tempo, and an overwhelming sense of the greatness of the music. Try their intense and inspired In monte Oliveti for sheer spiritual ecstasy. Try their lush and lovely Bon jour mon coeur for sheer sensual pleasure. Then try lutinist Stephen Stubbs' Susanne und jour for sheer, exquisite rapture. Virgin's 1983 early digital sound is as good as early digital sound ever gets, that is, clear, clean, and a little too etiolated to be true.

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