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The Hilliard Ensemble: Codex Specialnik (APE)

The Hilliard Ensemble: Codex Specialnik (APE)
The Hilliard Ensemble: Codex Specialnik (APE)

Composer: Alexander Agricola, Josquin Desprez, Gontrasek, Petrus de Grudziadz, John Plummer, Johannes Touront
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Ecm
Size: 285 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

01. Exordium Quadruplate – Nate Dei – Concrepet – Verbum Caro
02. Tria Sunt Munera – Videntes Stellam – Reges Tharsis
03. In Natali Domini
04. Sophia Nascitur – O Quam Pulchra – Magi Videntes
05. Congaudemus Pariter – En Lux Immensa
06. Magnum Miraculum
07. Nobis Est Natus
08. Salve Mater Gracie
09. Christus Iam Surrexit – Terra Tremuit – Angelus Domini – Surrexit Christus
10. Presulem Ephebeatum
11. Paraneuma Eructemus
12. Presidiorum Erogatrix
13. Pneuma Eucaristiarum – Veni Vere Illustrator – Dator Eya – Paraclito Tripudia
14. Terrigenarum Plasmator
15. Pulcherrima Rosa
16. Chorus Iste
17. Bud’ Buohu Chvala Cest
18. O Virens Virginum
19. Missa Petite Camusette – Kyrie
20. Missa Petite Camusette – Gloria
21. Tota Pulchra Es
22. Missa Petite Camusette – Credo
23. Ave Pura Tu Puella
24. Missa Petite Camusette – Sanctus
25. Ave Maria

a mixed bag

Like many of the Hilliard Ensemble’s ECM discs, there is a passionlessness and stylistic homogeneity about much of the singing here that makes it quite an effort to get through much of this disc in one sitting. David James’s affected countertenor in particular gets tiring on the ear. But the reason why this still gets 4 stars is that this is a fascinating collection of widely divergent pieces, from tangled Ars Nova polyphony through shimmeringly beautiful, more static mid-15th century pieces such as John Plummer’s “Tota Pulchra Es” and the gorgeous anonymous “Magnum Miraculum”, all the way through to the more familiar Renaissance masters like Josquin and Agricola. The Hilliards’ reading of the Josquin warhorse “Ave Maria” is slow, empty and totally lacking forward momentum: you wonder why they bothered recording it if they were as bored with it as they sound. But they save their most vital performances for the astonishing anonymous “Missa Petite Camusette”, which alone justifies the exorbitant ECM price. Whoever this composer was, it was no hack. The original Ockeghem melody is masterfully treated in rich, imitative textures, full of yearning melodic flourishes, and slow moving, but poised harmonies based on the cantus firmus. If you prefer your Renaissance polyphony artificially flavoured with Kenny G, stay well away from this disc. If you want a fascinating tour through the polyphonic backwaters of the Renaissance, get this.

1 thought on “The Hilliard Ensemble: Codex Specialnik (APE)”

  1. Wow! Thank you so very much! I’ve never seen a site that had working links that are a year-and-a-half old. The Hiiliard Ensemble performs exquisite music. They are retiring in a week or two, on their 40th anniversary, and will be giving a farewell concert in London. If I had the money or the time I would be there… but oh well, this is the next best thing! Thanks again.

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