Vecchi: Requiem

Graindelavoix, Björn Schmelzer
Glossa GCD P32113
+de La Hèle  Kyrie, Sanctus & Agnus Dei (Missa Praeter rerum seriem), Duarte Lobo  Agnus Dei (Missa Dum aurora) & Ruimonte  Agnus Dei (Missa Ave Virgo Sanctissima)

If you like your early 17th-century music sung as a certain hard core of aficionados believe 15th-century music was sung, then this is for you. By this I mean the earthy delivery, swooping pitching, constant wobbling ornaments familiar from Graindelavoix’s previous recordings of music such as the Messe de Notre Dame, applied to the music of the late Renaissance. Well actually it is not as simple as that. The sections for solo voices seem to inhabit a much more Renaissance world, although they still use the glissandi and wobbly ornaments, which had they ever been widely employed, seem to me upsettingly out of place in High Renaissance vocal lines. Meanwhile the sections for full choir are something of an evolutionary throw-back.

The best I can say about the group’s approach to this music is that it is challengingly unconventional and provides a strikingly alternative view of late Renaissance polyphony. Even in their own controversial terms these performances seem to me to have technical shortcomings, in that the singers are sometimes far from unified in their movements and there are occasional scatterings of concluding consonants for which even an amateur choir would be rebuked. As the musical and philosophical offspring of groups such as the Ensemble Organum whose groundbreaking work I admired, I want to like Graindelavoix’s recent recordings more, but there is an intellectual fuzziness and a musical slap-dash quality about them which runs quite contrary to their rigorous predecessors.

D. James Ross