Magnificat / Philip Cave

Philippe Rogier: Missa Ego sum qui sum

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Philippe Rogier was the last of his line, a Franco-Flemish composer serving the Spanish throne in the waning days of the Renaissance. Although the switch from Renaissance styling to Baroque composition would happen a bit slower in Spain than elsewhere in continental Europe, for some reason no more composers came down from the low countries to continue this honored practice once Rogier's assistant Géry de Ghersem tossed off this mortal coil in the year 1630. De Gershem left only one work, and Rogier only 51, so one wouldn't think that opportunities to mess this music up would be numerous. However, given the need for transparency of texture and clear delivery of entrances, there aren't many choirs that sing this particular literature to perfection. Enter Magnificat -- the English vocal group, not to be confused with the same named ensemble based in San Francisco -- under its leader Philip Cave; they have tamed the beast that is Spanish Renaissance music with a Franco-Flemish accent. The Linn Records disc Philippe Rogier: Missa Ego sum qui sum contains the aforementioned mass and a total of six motets of Rogier, plus another by Nicolas Gombert, which provided the model for Rogier's mass. This Linn disc is about as ideal an interpretation as anyone could want, with well-adjudged tempi, passionate yet pristine singing, a sense of three-dimensional projection of the voices happily married to a balanced ensemble sound, and special sensitivity and attention paid to the all-important staging of the vocal texture. These elements genuinely reveal what is great about Rogier's music; the lengthy Credo from the mass is ravishing, and there are numerous standout moments along the disc's course, not the least of which is the subtly melting, alternately glowing Gombert motet Ego sum qui sum. There may not be many choices for the music of Philippe Rogier, but Linn's Philippe Rogier: Missa Ego sum qui sum is unquestionably the best one.

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