Jacques Arcadelt: Motetti, Madrigali, Chansons

Dark green flowers

Choeur de Chambre de Namur, Cappella Mediterranea, Doulce Mémoire
185:12 (3 CDs in a box)
Ricercar RIC 392

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his is a collection in three parts, with the motets sung by the Chamber Choir, the madrigals sung and played by the Cappella and the chansons by Doulce Mémoire. While I was aware of and have directed several of Arcadelt’s madrigals and chansons, I don’t think I have come across any of his motets, so it was with particular interest that I listened to them. Very smoothly crafted and with elegant part movement, they are very much the sort of sacred music one would expect from the composer of his secular music. Arcadelt was a Namur man, and the Chamber Choir de Namur appear to be at the root of this project, but it has to be said they struggle a little with the more complex passages in Arcadelt’s polyphony, particularly as they have recorded them in a rather resonant acoustic and use an organ accompaniment throughout. The music is nonetheless interesting, and the motets CD ends intriguingly with a couple of homages from Pierre-Louis Dietsch and Franz Liszt whose versions of Ave Maria based on Arcadelt’s music started the revival of interest in the composer’s own music. The Cappella Mediterranea’s beautiful account of the madrigals opens with Arcadelt’s lovely setting of Il bianco e dolce Cigno and they proceed to give us lovely accounts of a cross-section of his madrigals from several of his collections. The voices are supported severally by lute, guitar, harpsichord and organ. With the chansons CD, we come to the wonderfully professional Doulce Mémoire, whose energetic and characterful accounts of the chansons on a mixture of voices and instruments are perhaps the most successful part of this comprehensive collection. This three-CD collection performs a valuable service in drawing attention to the versatility of Jacques Arcadelt, and it was only when I came to listen to the chansons after the motets that I realised that the distinctive combination of highly animated lines combined with more sustained textures also occurs in his motets.

D. James Ross

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