Lassus: Prophetiæ Sibyllarum

Vocalconsort Berlin, Daniel Reuss
49:06
Accent ACC 24307
+ Angelus ad pastores ait, Ave Maria, Dixit Dominus, Magnificat super aurora lucis rutilat, Quem vidistis pastores & Videntes stellam

Lassus’ extraordinary settings of the thirteen Prophetiæ Sibyllarum belong to the same unsettled and unsettling harmonic sound-world as his tortured Tears of St Peter and a handful of his more troubled madrigals, all the close cousins of the music of Gesualdo. No harmonic progression seems to go in the anticipated direction, and occasionally chords spring from roots which neither prepare for nor build towards them. The results are constantly startling and occasionally disorientating, and constantly challenging to sing. The Vocalconsort of Berlin present performances of such assurance and complete security that it is salutary to recall just how hard this mercurial music is to sing. A perfect balance, utterly secure intonation and a constant inexorable sense of direction make this one of the most impressive recordings I have heard of this repertoire. The Prophetiæ Sibyllarum only make up half a programme, and the Consort add on a group of Christmas motets and the sonorous ten-part Magnificat super aurora lucis rutilat. Even with these bonus tracks the recording lasts for under 50 minutes, and some listeners may regard it as poor value, but bearing in mind the harmonic and intellectual density of the Prophetiæ I certainly didn’t feel short-changed. Anyone unfamiliar with the Prophetiae has a delight in store, and those already acquainted with some of Lassus’ most outlandish compositions will love the consummate professionality of these performances.

D. James Ross