Monday 27 March 2017

Spectacularly fine performances of sacred motets by Giaches de Wert show him to be a composer of distinctive style

The Flemish composer, Giaches de Wert (c. 1535-1596) is believed to have been born in Antwerp. He was sent to Italy at a young age where he became a chorister at the house of Maria di Cardona, Marchese della Padulla. He later became a member of the choir formed by Alfonso Gonzaga at Novellara but soon made connections with the nearby ducal courts of Mantua where he eventually became maestro di cappella at the ducal chapel of S. Barbara, Mantua.

Stile Antico have gathered together a collection of Sacred Motets by Giaches de Wert for a new release from Harmonia Mundi entitled Divine Theatre.

HMM 807620

The whole choir opens Gaudete in Domino a 5 (Rejoice in the Lord). It is full of life and vitality, as Wert’s wonderful harmonies are woven with a feeling of true rejoicing to a sonorous conclusion.

Hoc enim sentite in vobis a 5 (For let this attitude be yours) slowly expands with this choir bringing the most exquisite textures and sonorities, all the while individual sections of the choir shining through, finding some lovely subtle nuances, shaping this music beautifully. The music rises centrally through some wonderfully uplifting passages, the choir later bringing some lovely rich textures.

Stile Antico bring a fine rhythmic control to the fine part writing of Saule, Saule a8, a distinctive motet that would surely bring challenges for any choir. This choir responds wonderfully, shaping some lovely passages.
Male voices open the slow and mournful motet, Vox in Rama audita est a 5 (A voice was heard in Ramah) expanding across the choir with the female voices adding some very lovely moments. As the motet develops, this choir rises through some passages that positively glow before bringing this quite wonderful work to a beautifully controlled conclusion.
The choir rises through some finely transparent, beautifully blended moments in Amen, amen dico vobis a 5 (Truly, truly, I say to you) finding passages of rhythmic buoyancy around a gentler flow before picking up in rhythm to all but dance to the end.

Stile Antico bring some of their finest harmonies in Egressus Jesus a7 (Jesus went out) with some distinctive rising phrases that lift this music, often bringing a great passion.

The choir sounds out passionately in the opening of Peccavi super numerum a6 (I have sinned more than the number) before finding a gentler flow in this gently rising and falling penitent motet. This choir find so many wonderful moments, bringing a great subtlety and attention to every detail, picking up rhythmically before a gentle conclusion.

There is a gentle yet passionate opening to O Crux ave, spes unica a5 (Hail, O Cross, our only hope), this choir finding a subtle fluctuation of emotional strength, a lovely ebb and flow throughout as this mournful text unfolds.

The six voices used in Ascendente Jesu in naviculam a6 (When Jesus had climbed into the boat) weave some very lovely harmonies and sonorities, responding wonderfully to every little rhythmic detail with some particularly fine moments for the female voices before leading to a remarkably fine coda.

Female voices take the motet Virgo Maria hodie ad coelum a6 (Today the Virgin Mary is taken up into heaven) joyfully and buoyantly forward, the whole choir joining to weave some extraordinarily fine harmonies with some beautifully controlled moments at Quasi flos rosarum in diebus vernis, (As the flower of roses in the spring) such a fine gentle blend of voices that, nevertheless, retains a fine forward momentum.

A single tenor opens Quiescat vox tua a ploratu a6 (Keep your voice from weeping) joined immediately by the other voices to slowly weave and blend the most lovely sonorities in another mournful motet, a setting of Jeremiah, yet finding moments of greater rhythmic buoyancy.

The whole choir brings a radiant Deus iustus, et salvans a6 (A just God and a Saviour) a perfect vehicle for Stile Antico’s glorious choral textures, rising and falling through some terrific passages.  

O altitudo divitiarum a6 (Oh, the height of riches) is an ideal motet to conclude this disc, the choir finding a wonderful, ever changing pulse and rubato as this piece moves ahead through such fine textures. 

It is this choir’s exquisite control, ability to shape and colour and lift the music that makes these performances so spectacularly fine, showing Giaches de Wert to be a composer of distinctive style. Stile Antico receive a first class recording from All Hallows’ Church, Gospel Oak, London, UK and there are excellent booklet notes from Matthew O’Donovan.


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