René Clemencic / Clemencic Consort

Mysterium Passio et Resurrection

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The liturgical dramas and mystery plays of the medieval era have a strong presence in the musical awareness of modern listeners, even those otherwise little concerned with medieval music. Such works as the Play of Daniel form, at least indirectly, the basis for Western music drama, and their chant-like language is inflected in ways that communicate dramatic content to listeners of all backgrounds. This album promises much, offering a performance of a little-known Italian dramatic presentation of Christ's death and resurrection, originating in the northeast Italian Alpine town of Cividale in the fourteenth century. This performance aims toward historical authenticity, with a mostly unaccompanied presentation (there are a few viols and bells) by an all-male cast, and the singers by and large are a delight to listen to. The parts for the "three Marys" who visit the sepulchre of Jesus (Dominique Visse, Jeffrey Gall, Gaël de Kerret) are central; there are also parts for an angel, Saint John, and Jesus himself (who has a very minor role) along with two onlookers. The mood created by director René Clemencic is restrained but not dull. Unfortunately, the disc will be useful mostly for specialists familiar with medieval Latin; no texts whatsoever are given. It is true that the outlines of this best-known of all stories can be divined (so to speak) easily enough, but the texts are not biblical, and it would have been really nice to know what the figures depicted were singing. The booklet notes are heavy on the development and structure of liturgical dramas generally, but they mostly presuppose scholarly acquaintance with the subject. The disc is presented in a sumptuous case, the funds for which would have been better directed toward basic intelligibility.

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