Music for Milan Cathedral

Siglo de Oro, Patrick Allies
Delphian DCD34224
Music by Gaffurius, Josquin, Phinot, Weerbeke & Weerecore

How many more gifted Franco-Flemish composers from the generation between Josquin and Palestrina are going to be rescued from undeserved neglect? Notwithstanding negativity about the CD business from Dismal Jimmies, or indeed Harries, recording companies continue to exist, they make recordings with the finest artistes, and they keep coming up with impressive unknowns. The sacred music of Hermann Matthias Werrecore, a name previously unfamiliar to this reviewer, is featured on over half of the tracks of this fine recording and it is a revelation. Werrecore was maestro di cappella at Milan Cathedral for over thirty years, from 1522 to 1557 or 1558. His surname suggests Flemish origins in Vercore, Hainaut, but seemingly records at Milan Cathedral state that he was the son of a father resident in Milan. Of the eleven motets on this disc, six are by Werrecore, including two – Popule meus and Ave maris stella – that run the longest, at over ten minutes apiece. In his day he was hailed as the successor to Josquin, two of whose motets are included. It is true that he quotes or homages Josquin, but stylistically it is clear not only that he is of the generation after Josquin, but also that he is entirely his own man, and these references to his predecessor are entirely on his own terms. While it is insulting and destructive to pigeonhole any composer, it is useful and important to try to indicate what listeners approaching this music anew might expect to hear. For all that he is a close contemporary of Gombert, Werrecore’s “sound” is less intense and not so much founded upon continuous counterpoint sung by a full ensemble, a style represented on this recording by the excellent motet Homo quidam fecit by Dominique Phinot (hear more of his superb music on Hyperion CDA67696 sung by the Brabant Ensemble) who was hailed as the precursor of Palestrina in the same way that Werrecore was hailed as Josquin’s successor! Werrecore is masterful at varying tempo and scoring, so he can excel equally in a short funeral motet such as Proh dolor as in the two lengthy motets already mentioned. Indeed, there are moments of ecstasy in his motets, not least in Inviolata, integra et casta es Maria which begins this recording, and which is a match for the better-known setting by Josquin with which it closes. It also includes a fine motet each by Gaffurius, more famous as a theorist, and the earlier composer Gaspar van Weerbeke, who might have been born a few years before Josquin. The performances by Siglo de Oro under Patrick Allies are radiant: ideally balanced and paced to perfection, they shed Mediterranean light upon this already outstanding repertory.

Richard Turbet

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