Of all the styles Orlande de Lassus could write in -- and he was poly-stylistic before Schnittke coined the term -- the one he may have used least often was the severe style of conservative Catholicism. But Lassus was as supremely skilled in writing austere modal counterpoint as Palestrina and his Missa pro defunctis is as lucidly linear and as darkly luminous as Palestrina's own. And of all the styles Lassus could write in, perhaps the one he was most skilled in was the chromatic style of late-Renaissance mannerism, and his Prophetiae Sibyllarum is as extravagantly expressive and as wildly overwrought as the best works of Gesualdo. In this sublime 1993 recording by the Hilliard Ensemble, Lassus' severe Missa pro defunctis and his chromatic Prophetiae Sibyllarum are made thoroughly transparent, completely compelling, and profoundly moving. As in every Hilliard disc, one is continually astounded by the clarity of intonation, the beauty of tone, and the depth of the interpretations. That these four unassuming men can make music so extraordinarily exquisite is almost beyond belief. And so does ECM's sound, which is at once clear, warm, translucent, and a model for what digital sound should be. This is as great a Lassus recording as has ever been made.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Missa Pro defunctis, for 4 voices, H. iv/95|
|Prophetiae Sibyllarum... chromatico more singulari confectae, motet collection for 4 voices|