The Mysterious Motet Book of 1539

In the late 1530s, Milanese composer Hermann Matthias Werrecore assembled a collection of sacred music and sent it across the Alps to the publisher Peter Schoeffer in Strasbourg. In making the journey from staunchly Catholic Milan to newly Protestant Strasbourg, the repertoire in question became cross-confessional. What was the purpose of publishing a motet book in a German imperial city where Latin choral singing no longer took place?

Siglo de Oro have collaborated with Dr Daniel Trocmé-Latter (University of Cambridge) to showcase works from this puzzling volume, setting motets by Nicolas Gombert, Jacquet of Mantua, Jacques Arcadelt and Adrian Willaert alongside less familiar names such as Simon Ferrariensis and the enigmatic Johannes Sarton. The resulting recording exhibits the combination of meticulous musicological research and finely crafted, sonorous singing that their previous Delphian albums have led us to expect.

'The 12 motets chosen by Patrick Allies include some superlative music never heard on disc before, for that reason alone, collectors interested in the byways of Renaissance/Reformation/Counter-Reformation polyphony will want to acquire this album with splendid accounts of Arcadelt’s Apparens Christus – eight and a half minutes of gloriously intricate weaving of the vocal fabric – Willaert’s Peccavi super numerum mater ecclesia – and Gombert’s Laus Deo, among the better-known composers, an expansive Pater Noster – Ave Maria sequence by “Maistre Jhan”, a magnificent, if brief, Ave e gaude gloriosa virgo, by Simon Ferrariensis (an early 16th Century composer from Ferrara) and Haec dies quam fecit, by one “Johannes Sarton ... Allies’s mixed voice singers – a maximum of 13 voices in all but a handful of the motets – blend superbly and bring an emotional commitment and tonal splendour to this unfamiliar music in a wide variety of styles during the most conflicted era of religious and political upheaval in Europe'

'Points to Patrick Allies and his vocal ensemble for one of the most enticing album titles of the year... which uncovers strange liturgical and musical goings on in the early days of the Protestant Reformation in Strasbourg ...Liturgically we get a bit of everything, from penitential motets to Arcadelt’s Dum complerentur for Pentecost, false relations twisting and warping the texture with madrigalian urgency, and even some Marian music (smuggled in without mention on the title-page). Johannes Sarton’s muscular Haec dies with its celebratory refrain ‘noe, noe’ for Christmas is a highlight, as is the strikingly supple, silvery timbre of Phinot’s Exsurge quare obdormis – the lack of a bass part giving the illusion of weightlessness, the arresting clarity of pleas ‘adiuva nos’ lending force to its supplication.

Nicely blended, balance tending just a little top-heavy, Siglo de Oro bring a youthful freshness to this music – much of it unfamiliar. If they haven’t solved the musical mystery, they’ve certainly posed some curious questions'

"This is a disc which fascinates as much for the background story as for the music itself ... The spacious music impresses, as does the clarity and ideal blend with which the members of Siglo De Oro deliver it ... The music is splendid and so is the performance by Siglo De Oro, vividly brought to life ... This is an outstanding release. It seamlessly combines top-class musicianship with the results of dedicated scholarship ... I urge readers to acquire this splendid CD"

Recommended - John Quinn

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'The choir are poised one moment, compelling and glowing the next, then sensitive and penetrating, and always well balanced and crystal-clear in intonation, with almost complete lucidity of text'

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"Siglo de Oro singt die Werke mit einer Hingabe, Professionalitat und Intensitat, die Staunen macht. Dieses Album ist wirklich in jeder Hinsicht exzeptionell!"


★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Release Date: 23 September 2022
Catalogue No: DCD34284
Total playing time: 1:07:14
Recorded on 7-9 January in St George’s Church, Chesterton,
Producer/Engineer: Paul Baxter
24-bit digital editing: Jack Davis
24-bit digital mastering: Paul Baxter
Editions prepared by Daniel Trocmé-Latter
Design: Drew Padrutt
Booklet editor: Henry Howard
Cover photograph: A Hike in the Bavarian Alps near Oberstdorf. Adrian Infernus/unsplash
Session photography: foxbrushfilms.com

MusicWeb International


Johannes Lupi:Apparens Christus

Album Booklet

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