Holy Saturday, two o'clock in the morning. In churches and chapels throughout Christendom, the Passion of Christ is commemorated at the Offices of Matins and Lauds. As this long and fatiguing liturgy advances, the candles are progressively extinguished, until total darkness reigns after the Miserere… This dramatic tableau is that of the Office of Tenebrae, a ceremonial unchanged since the Middle Ages which inspired some of the most moving pieces in the whole sacred repertory, notably settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah - which under the name of 'Leçons de ténèbres' were to become a major genre of French Baroque music. In the sixteenth century, at the Sistine Chapel in Rome, the service was sung to the Lamentations of Cristóbal de Morales (1500-53), the 'light of Spain' who himself became a singer in this illustrious establishment. It is this magnificent, uniquely compelling music that Doulce Mémoire use as the basis for a new liturgical reconstruction, following on from their Requiem pour les Rois de France . As Denis Raisin-Dadre says: This music speaks to us of time, of time that is immobile, contemplative, extraordinarily concentrated… We have striven to recapture the emotion it engendered, its spirituality, through a search for absolute sincerity.
Francis I, as a princely patron of the arts, realised that music was a very useful tool for his policy of prestige: Official music for great diplomatic events like the amazing musical ‘tournament’ between the Chapelle of the King of France and the Chapel Royal of Henry VIII of England at the Mass for the Field of the Cloth of Gold, reconstructed in this recording; but also more intimate music with the exceptionally subtle, refined and learned repertory to be heard in the monarch’s châteaux such as Chambord and Fontainebleau, performed by the finest singers and instrumentalists of the realm under the aegis of the Chambre du Roi. Here is a feast of previously unrecorded music for King Francis I, the symbol of a happy Renaissance.
The Brabant Ensemble continue their investigation into unknown jewels of the Low Countries Renaissance, researched by their director Stephen Rice and recorded with equal amounts of passion and erudition by the young singers of the group. Cipriano de Rore was and is principally known as a madrigal composer, and, as Stephen Rice writes, ‘blended the contrapuntal complexity of Low Countries polyphonic style with Italian poetic texts to create a newly expressive vernacular genre’. This recording represents something of a new departure in presenting some of the least well-known aspects of the output of a composer who is justly famous in other fields.
Published in Rome in 1553 and re-discovered during the 20th-Century, the 'Tratado de Glosas' by Spanish composer Diego Ortiz offers, through many variations called 'recercadas', an unmatched panorama of the instrumental music of its time. The reissue of this 1990 album in the Heritage series enables us to listen to one of Jordi Savall’s best accomplishments, alongside Ton Koopman and Rolf Lislevand. On various themes, including 'La Folia' and 'Doulce memoire', Diego Ortiz and Jordi Savall demonstrate their science and their spirit of invention for our greatest entertainment!