Modern floral

Gallicantus, Gabriel Crouch
Signum SIG CD 520

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his CD presents the remarkable music of Lassus’ Prophetae Sibyllarum interspersed with contemporary music written in response to it with a couple of chants by Hildegard von Bingen, slightly shoe-horned into the mix, by virtue of her epithet “the Sibyll of the Rhine”. The male-voice ensemble produces a warm and beautifully polished sound, and more importantly for highly chromatic music such as Lassus writes here, they have wonderful focus and pinpoint accurate intonation. Those not familiar with this rather visionary side of Lassus will be intrigued with the daringly exploratory writing style, similar to his Lagrime di San Pietro cycle and bordering on the uniquely strange world of Gesualdo. Wisely, though, the ensemble doesn’t just rely on the strangeness of this score, but work to find the music behind the notes, producing a genuinely moving performance of some of Lassus’ most heartfelt utterances. Is a well-known fact that Lassus suffered from sometimes crippling depression, suggesting bipolarity, and this strange, otherworldly music seems to touch on some of his lowest, darkest moods as well as episodes of sublime transcendence. Resulting from a project at Princeton University which also gave rise to the contemporary compositions, this CD is evidence of an intimate understanding of this challenging music and is as fine an account of the score as has been committed to CD to date. Particular plaudits are due to the group’s wonderfully clean-voiced countertenors, David Allsopp and Mark Chambers, and to baritone, Gabriel Crouch, who charts their intelligent and expressive route through the music while also holding one of the vocal lines.

Brian Clark

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