La Rue: Missa de Feria / Missa Sancta Dei Genitrix

La Rue: Missa de Feria / Missa Sancta Dei Genitrix
Gothic Voices - Christopher Page
Hyperion 67010

These are two fine masses by La Rue, plus the grand motet. Each has definite points of interest, and the combined program of two significant masses and a major six-part motet is a relatively strong one. The Missa de Feria comes off as particularly analytical, certainly a point of singularity, but a mixed signal as well. However, the lute arrangements are of limited value.

The performance is good, building on Gothic Voices' previous mass recordings, and showing a real poise here. Although too detached, there is a nice ludicity to the presentation, and some good ideas on how to articulate these larger forms are illustrated effectively. The phrasing is sometimes too naïvely episodic, but the larger points of the performance are handled well, and the clarity of sonority is certainly welcome.

Altogether, this is a worthwhile reading with some authority behind it. It combines a good formal understanding of La Rue's music with clear vocal textures. The big question is whether this group can use the present interpretation as a springboard to more thoroughly explore the fine music of c.1500, as it is certainly in need of more attention of this type.

The previous never happened, or at least not under that incarnation of Gothic Voices, but this recording continues to have merit. In fact, both masses do stand out in La Rue's oeuvre, if not at the top, still within his more appealing cycles. The recording becomes something of a classic, yet somehow has served to clarify La Rue's output rather little since its appearance. (One can hardly suggest that that has been through any fault of the ensemble, though. The choice of repertory here is excellent, but remains in need of further contextualization, presumably by subsequent performance.)

To renaissance sacred list

Todd M. McComb