Willaert: Musica Nova - The Motets / Singer Pur

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WILLAERT Huc me sidereo. Dilexi quoniam exaudiet. Audite insulae. Haec est domus Domini. Verbum supernum prodiens. Confitebor tibi Domine. Te Deum Patrem ingenitum. Beati pauperes spiritu. Sustinuimus pacem. Praeter rerum seriem. Alma Redemptoris Mater. Mittit ad Virginem. Benedicta es coelorum Regina. Salve Sancta parens. Inviolata integra et casta. Sub tuum praesidium. O admirabile commercium. Aspice Domine. Peccata mea. Domine quid multiplicati sunt. Pater peccavi. Miserere nostri Deus omnium. Avertatur obsecro. Omnia quae fecisti. Recordare Domine. Victimae paschali laudes. Veni Sancte Spiritus Singer Pur OEHMS 835 (3 CDs: 225:35 Text and Translation)

When Adrian Willaert (c.1490-1562) arrived in Venice in 1527, he was the first Flemish musician to be appointed maestro di cappella of St. Mark’s basilica, and the last of a long and distinguished line of Franco-Flemish musicians to dominate the Italian musical scene in the 15th and early 16th centuries. Although his position gave him the opportunity, not to say the duty, of supplying music for Mass and Vespers for his celebrated choir, his output does not appear on records as frequently as the music of his successors, most notably Monteverdi. Only a fraction of his 150 motets are available, and I have only three of his eight Masses in my collection. (His madrigals are better represented.) The Musica Nova , from which these motets come, was published by Gardano in 1559 at the behest of Alfonso d’Este, soon to be duke of Ferrara, who acquired the manuscript from the singer Polissena Pecorina. It contained 25 madrigals and 27 motets, works dating back through his career but kept apart from other music already published earlier. With the madrigals issued earlier ( Fanfare 33:4), Singer Pur has now recorded the entire publication. In the previous review, I indicated that I had not found any of the madrigals on records (no reader has written to offer any information on this).

Most of these motets have two parts; some have three, and O admirabile commercium has seven parts. The motets are set out here in order of themes, not the order of the published book, where the motets are grouped in ascending order of settings for four, five, six, and seven voices. The first disc is generally in praise of the Blessed Trinity, the second is entirely Marian in devotion, and the third is penitential, concluding with the sequences of Easter and Pentecost. Except for the last two pieces, it is remarkable that three very full discs can be equally divided along three distinct themes. The texts are from the Psalms and other scriptural and liturgical sources. Considering that the composition of these motets may have extended over a period of some years, the polyphonic style is notably uniform.

One motet that is special for its breadth is O admirabile commercium , the seven-part motet that takes its text from the seven antiphons for Lauds and Vespers of January 1. (While this is the feast of the Circumcision, it is structured as a Marian feast, and since 1970 has been known as the feast of Mary, the Mother of God.) This motet for five voices runs almost half an hour. The liturgical texts draw on biblical allusions, as in Rubum quem viderat , the third section, which takes the account of the burning bush unburnt from Exodus as a parallel to Mary’s giving birth while her virginity remained intact. Singer Pur’s execution is uniformly exquisite, with four male singers added to the six members of the ensemble (five former choirboys at Regensburg cathedral plus a soprano). Along with the Cinquecento disc (34: 2), these two sets of Musica Nova may be regarded as the preeminent observance of the composer’s 450th anniversary. With this recorded evidence, Willaert demonstrably occupies a place leading up to the glories of the High Renaissance that the next generation of composers achieved. Be sure to hear this impressive set.

FANFARE: J. F. Weber

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: OC 835

  • UPC: 4260034868359

  • Label: Oehms Classics

  • Composer: Adrian Willaert

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Singer Pur