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Reviews: Peudargent - Capella '92, Rabaskadol

Reviews: 1

Review by Osbert Parsley December 31, 2007 (2 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
The intriguingly named Martin Peudargent (meaning ‘Little Money’ in French), was born around 1510 in Huy in the Prince-Archbishopric of Liège. From the mid-1530s he is recorded as owning a house in Düsseldorf, where he probably worked as a master of music at a convent school. Starting in the late 1540s, he worked for Duke Wilhelm V of Jülich-Kleve-Berg in Düsseldorf, becoming Kapellmeister and eventually going blind before his death, apparently still in service to the Duke, between 1589 and 1594. He published three books of motets, two of which appeared in 1555 (the third of them with only a few works from his hand), which were all circulated widely throughout German-speaking lands during his lifetime. He also published a collection of chansons of which only the bass part-book survives. The second motet book contains several so-called ‘state motets’ written for official celebrations (births, baptisms, birthdays, weddings and anniversaries), praising Duke Wilhelm and members of his family, and it is from this collection that musicologists have inferred when Peudargent started working for the Ducal Court at Dusseldorf.

Peudargent was a true son of the great Flemish tradition of vocal polyphony, but with some openness to Italian elements typical of Flemish and German musicians of his time. His music thus has features similar to the works of his great and slightly younger contemporary, Orlandus Lassus, who worked at the even grander Court of the Elector of Bavaria in Munich. The mostly state motets recorded on this SACD show Peudargent to have been an accomplished polyphonist with a fine sense of aural texture and colour.

These features are accentuated by these lavishly mixed vocal and instrumental performances, which accord with the famous depictions of Lassus directing the Munich Court ensemble. Capella ’92 is a 17-voice choir of men and women. Being so large and consisting entirely of adults, the choir has quite a weighty sound. This detracts slightly from the vivacity of the performances, which would have benefited from the brilliance of boys’ voices as heard in the fairly recent recording of Lassus’s Penitential Psalms on the Capriccio label (CD only) by Tölzer Knabenchor. As on Tölzer’s Lassus discs, Capella ’92 is joined by a mixed wind and string ensemble. The disc’s cover illustration shows Peudargent and some of his musicians at Düsseldorf, three of whom are playing Renaissance violins. These instruments became increasingly popular as consort instruments at German courts between the 1540s and 1600. Here, their crisp, reedy sound, quite unlike the rounder, more powerful notes of the Baroque violin and cello, distinctively colours Rabaskadol’s sound, which includes cornetts, shawms, sackbuts, curtals, an organ and a spinet (but no lutes or harps).

Some of the motets and an arrangement of a French chanson as a canzona attributed to Peudargent in a Venetian collection do not feature Capella ’92 and are performed by Rabaskadol alone, either with just the instruments or with the group’s two attractively youthful and lithe singers, a soprano and a tenor, joining the instruments. These last performances are perhaps the most captivating of all.

Voices and instruments perform very well, with excellent ensemble from the disciplined (and very Dutch-sounding) choir and superior technical and stylistic assurance from the instruments. The shawms and curtals are especially engaging, although the cornetts are a little less polished than we expect from the best European (i.e. non-British) players these days. All this makes for a rich treat for the ears, which is accentuated by the first-rate sound engineering. Choir, instruments and the two vocal soloists blend warmly and naturally in the detailed and slightly resonant acoustic of the Church used as the recording venue, which sounds as if it incorporates as much wood as stone. In multi-channel mode, the placement of each voice or instrument is precise with much refined detail to overcome the potential for aural crowding from too much richness and variety of sounds. In stereo mode, the sound stage is almost as clear and the balance, clarity and presence remain excellent. This type of aurally complex recording is an excellent demonstration indeed of the superior qualities of the SACD medium.

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