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Johannes de Cleve: Missa Rex Babylonis

Johannes de Cleve: Missa Rex Babylonis

by CinquecentoCinquecento


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When it comes to the third quarter of the 16th century, it was the radicals (Luca Marenzio and his still wilder followers) and the conservatives (Palestrina and the Spanish school) who have received most of the ink, grooves, and bytes. However, there were also composers who followed in the mainstream of Franco-Flemish music flowing from Josquin and, after him, Nicolas Gombert and Giaches de Wert (once dubbed the Ert Brothers). Unlike those composers, Johannes de Cleve worked in Vienna, as evidenced by a German-language motet heard here. He was preceded by the similarly unknown Jacobus Vaet, whose motet "Rex Babylonis" he subjected to "parody mass" treatment: elaboration of the full sonorities of a model composition, not just a single cantus firmus line. Vaet's motet is included here, which is desirable, but it is placed at the end (less desirably). It's a dense piece in the Gombert mold, consisting of points of imitation with few holes, and when de Cleve elaborates it, the result is a very complex texture indeed, which makes it all the more affecting when de Cleve drops in a sparse and absolutely lovely Incarnatus and Crucifixus. The "mass" is the highlight here, but the motets, big two-section works, are all interesting polyphonic essays in which one can hear the influence of the Italian progressives in some pungent dissonances. The small vocal group Cinquecento specializes in this repertory; the one-voice-per-part performance is not ideal, but the individual singers are beautiful, and the group deserves credit for pulling this fine work off the scrap heap of history.

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Product Details

Release Date: 06/26/2020
Label: Hyperion
UPC: 0034571282411
catalogNumber: 68241
Rank: 44996


  1. Rex Babylonis, motet for 5 voices
  2. Carole cui nomen, motet for 5 voices
  3. Credo quod redemptor, motet for 5 voices
  4. Timete Dominum, motet for 5 voices
  5. Carole qui veniens, motet for 5 voices (Cantiones seu harmoniae sacrae)
  6. Laudate Dominum, motet for 5 voices
  7. Es wel uns Gott genedig sein, song
  8. Missa Rex Babylonis, for 5 voices

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