Lassus: Prophetiae Sibyllarum, Christmas Motets / Cordes, Weser Renaissance Bremen

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LASSUS Prophetiae Sibyllarum. Omnes de Saba. Jerusalem plantabis. Sidus ex claro veniens. Cum natus esset Jesus. Descendit sicut pluvia. Mirabile mysterium. Verbum caro. Jubilemus singuli. Resonet in laudibus Manfred Cordes, dir; Weser-Renaissance Bremen CPO 777468-2 (64:44 Text and Translation)

The Sibylline Prophecies constitutes one of the most familiar works of Lassus. I know of 11 previous recordings, including one that Alpha has not sent for review, and most recently Walter Testolin ( Fanfare 31:2) was praised for his interpretation. Like several other versions, this one offers one voice to a part, unaccompanied (except for a harp) like the last five issues. But in a program unlike any previous version, the movements are sung in pairs with a motet inserted after each pair to break up the sequence, and all the motets include an instrumental ensemble. The motets are set for five to eight voices, and the parts are distributed in various combinations among the six singers and seven players. At one end of the spectrum, Jerusalem plantabis and Descendit sicut pluvia have one singer and four players, while Sidus ex claro veniens has five singers with harp and Jubilemus singuli has six singers with harp. The others are more elaborate. All are Christmas motets complementing the theme of the prophecies, which were written in the composer’s time as a Humanist revival of the Classical pagan sibyls, who had long been seen as pagan prophets of the coming of Christ.

Manfred Cordes suggests in his notes that the chromaticism of the main work does not wear well, militating against listening straight through, hence his decision to insert the relief provided by the contrasting motets. This is a good notion and it distinguishes this set from the competition. The first and last motets are the most familiar, and Cum natus esset Jesus was on a Hilliard Ensemble disc, but the rest may possibly be first recordings. Cordes has been giving us a dependable run of recordings on this label, including a recent Lassus disc (31:1), so there are probably readers already prepared to grab this one. The singing and playing are admirable.

FANFARE: J. F. Weber

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 777468-2

  • UPC: 761203746828

  • Label: CPO

  • Composer: Orlando de Lassus

  • Conductor: Manfred Cordes

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Weser Renaissance