di Lasso: Psalmus

die Singphoniker
137:49 (2 CDs in a single jewel case)
cpo 555 264-2
Bußpslamen I-VII, Laudes Domini

Founded by a group of students in Munich in 1980, Die Singphoniker might be thought of as the German equivalent of the Kings Singers, with a particular mission to explore German music. For this recording the six permanent male singers are joined by two guests, one of whom is a female soprano. Lasso’s Penitential Psalms are the archetypal musica reservata, commissioned by Duke Albrecht V in the late 1550s and copied into two choirbooks which were sumptuously decorated by Hans Mielich. They were accompanied by two volumes of commentary by court intellectual Samuel Quiccheberg, the whole forming what he called a ‘foundation of the theatre of knowledge’. They were eventually published in Munich in 1584, after Albrecht’s death, allowing them to reach a wider audience. All this and much more is clearly laid out in the excellent booklet notes by Lassus scholar, Bernhold Schmid. The seven penitential psalms were associated particularly with Lent and Holy Week and include the Miserere and De profundis. Lassus added an extended Laudes Domini, drawing on verses from the final four laudatory psalms (Pss. 147-150). The whole set is carefully designed, using each of the eight church modes in turn. Psalm verses are individually treated, with a variety of textures, and present a model of countrapuntal clarity, combined with a flexible rhythmic treatment of the text. Inevitably there is a sameness to the settings – some of which extend to twenty-five minutes in length – and listeners will not necessarily wish to listen to them all at once. The singing is exemplary, with excellent tuning maintained throughout, and the group lets the settings speak for themselves rather than adding any exaggerated interpretations. Recording quality is top class and the whole project is well worth listening to.

Noel O’Regan

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