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Passionate Commitment

'Missa Gaudeamus' -
welcomed by

'... a joyous celebration ...'

Victoria: Missa Gaudeamus. Lay Clerks of Westminster Cathedral / Matthew Martin. © 2009 Hyperion Records Ltd

The Roman Catholic Church has latterly thrown out much of its heritage. At a time when we are rejoicing to 'meet up with' people rather than meet them, we can ill spare the cogent discipline of Latin, a language which has served the Church admirably ever since St Peter was conveniently martyred in the land of its origin. Far be it from me to assess the musical tastes of the Almighty, but there is no doubt he is more accustomed to the intricate harmonies of choir and organ than to the insipid twanglings of a lone guitar.

So there is the warmest of welcomes for this 'Missa Gaudeamus' disc, a joyous celebration for the feast of the Virgin's assumption. Tomás Luis de Victoria is central, not only with his setting of the Mass but also his 'Vidi speciosam' motet. There are in addition three organ pieces by Frescobaldi, as well as his final Recercar for choir and organ bidding Mary pray for us, interspersed with liturgical chants to complete the sequence. Even in Latin the Gospel seems unduly hard on poor Martha, who knew as well as I do that the dusting must be done and meals have to be prepared.

The Lay Clerks of Westminster Cathedral under Matthew Martin have a glorious building to inspire their singing, in which myriads of bricks have only very partially been effaced by the opulence of marble. The acoustic is all the richer for the comparative poverty of the diocese. Victoria stakes his claim to greatness with the opening Kyrie.

Listen -- Victoria: Kyrie (Missa Gaudeamus)
(track 3, 0:45-1:51) © 2009 Hyperion Records Ltd

Central to the service is the chant that Mary the Virgin has indeed been taken up into heaven, where an 'army' of angels rejoices.

Listen -- Alleluia -- Assumpta est Maria in caelum
(track 8, 1:03-1:35) © 2009 Hyperion Records Ltd

Frescobaldi's second offering is a Canzon to follow the Epistle from Ecclesiasticus.

Listen -- Frescobaldi: Canzon dopo l'Epistola
(track 9, 0:49-1:12) © 2009 Hyperion Records Ltd

Thomas Wilson plays a modest instrument of half-a-dozen stops, built by Goetze and Gwynn in 1996, entirely suitable for the job. Victoria is at his most sonorous in the powerful paragraphs of the Sanctus, which demonstrate also the passionate commitment of the choir to a style of singing very different from that favoured in even the grandest of Anglican settings.

Listen -- Victoria: Sanctus (Missa Gaudeamus)
(track 16, 0:48-1:49) © 2009 Hyperion Records Ltd

Copyright © 1 November 2009 Robert Anderson,
Cairo, Egypt








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