Cardoso: Magnificats, Missa secundi toni, motets

The Choir of Girton College Cambridge, Historic Brass of the Royal Academy of Music, Gareth Wilson
77:51
Toccata Classics TOCC 0476
+de Brito, Magalhaes, Morago & anon

This disc represents a fruitful collaboration between the choir of Girton College, directed by Gareth Wilson, and the historic brass players of the Royal Academy of Music under the tutelage of Jeremy West. They show a welcome commitment to the music of Manuel Cardoso and his Portuguese contemporaries, having toured with this programme to Evora and other cathedrals associated with these composers before recording it. Much of the music is recorded here for the first time, particularly Cardoso’s Missa Secondi Toni  and two of his alternatim Magnificats, as well as two anonymous Portuguese organ pieces, played by Lucy Morrell; one is a delightfully sprightly Passo de Segundo Tom. The Cardoso Mass displays all the features familiar to us from other works by this fine composer while individual pieces by De Brito, Magalhães and Morago confirm the high standard of Portuguese music in this late Renaissance-early Baroque period. The choir sings with commitment and mostly rises to the challenge, though the vocal sound is perhaps a bit restrained and some more articulation of the words would have been welcome. The balance, when accompanied by the brass, is not always to the choir’s advantage – it is, of course, difficult to make this work on a recording when light young voices in groups have to balance with penetrating solo instruments. When playing on their own in three pieces, the instrumentalists show a real flair for stile antico polyphony, particularly in Morago’s Commissa mea pavesco  where some very expressive playing brings out the subtleties of the suspensions and other contrapuntal devices. The two Magnificats are particularly effective: they are well orchestrated between voices and instruments, and the verses flow steadily between chant and polyphony. Booklet notes are excellent and the whole enterprise represents a very successful presentation of some beautiful music.

Noel O’Regan

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