La Rue: Requiem

Extreme Singing
La Rue Requiem and other Low Masterpieces of the Renaissance
Vox Early Music Ensemble - Christopher Wolverton
Ancient Voice Records 002

This is the tenth complete recording of La Rue's Requiem, but the first to perform it at written pitch, including both the low lows and the high highs. This was evidently a very virtuosic vocal piece, and is also one of the most popular pieces to record from the period, even if parts are often transposed, a practice that apparently dates back to the Renaissance itself.

Although this interpretation is not as fluent as some other recent performances in its phrasing and handling of partial cadences and the other intricacies of c.1500 polyphony, it does make a strong statement with its use of low voices. The basses in this ensemble are obviously quite talented, and the starkness of the ranges makes a definite impression, even if the handling of the phrasing could be a little more idiomatic. This is a groundbreaking recording in that sense, and likely something on which other ensembles will build.

Among the other pieces, those by La Rue are also appealing, and relatively well-known. The new piece that makes a particularly strong impression is the Stabat Mater of Weerbeke, a composer who continues to be neglected. The piece by Mouton is also one of his best, while that by Moulu belongs more to a later generation.

Over time, I've been enjoying this interpretation more, and so my criticisms above are probably overstatement. This is a rather compelling take on some highly virtuosic polyphony.

To renaissance sacred list

Todd M. McComb