Orazio Vecchi, Graindelavoix, Björn Schmelzer - Requiem

Published Tuesday 16th May 2017
Orazio Vecchi, Graindelavoix, Björn Schmelzer - Requiem
Orazio Vecchi, Graindelavoix, Björn Schmelzer  - Requiem

STYLE: Choral
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 165829-25788
LABEL: Glossa GCDP32113

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

Previous releases by the accomplished Belgium vocal group Graindelavoix have been so tricky to classify that I have filed them as World Music. This 2017 release on Glossa continues to push boundaries but while remaining highly idiosyncratic is sufficiently choral to come under that rubric. Director Björn Schmelzer takes his lead from the funeral rites for the Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens in 1640, which might have encompassed the Requiem Mass by Orazio Vecchi (1550-1605) as recorded here, to demonstrate two interconnected facets of Baroque Antwerp. The city was a major centre for music printing and Vecchi's Requiem was brought out there, as were the other works of composers represented on this disc: George de La Hèle, Duarte Lobo and Pedro Ruimonte (and indeed the recording ends with three successive Agnus Deis). The other facet is that of the image of Rubens's art: the Northern Baroque par excellence. Included in his recording are an intriguing booklet essay about the 'Baroque in disguise' and a stylized selection of pictorial images. Schmelzer encourages us to enter into this strange world of artistic clashes and ruptures; not least the fact that Vecchi, a composer better known for his secular music popular in Venice, had his sacred music performed in Antwerp. If you think this sounds too scholarly and dry I suggest you skip the essay and go straight to the music which is not what I expected. I have reviewed enough Requiems to be surprised to being surprised by a new setting. That this is over 400 years old and yet sounds contemporary is intriguing and the performance by Graindelavoix is magnificent, particularly from the lower voices. The contributions from the other three composers fit well with Vecchi's style and having a flock of four Agnus Deis for comparison is unexpectedly interesting. Although this is the most "left field" Requiem I have heard it was a satisfying and stimulating listen and the vocal prowess of the singers cannot fail to impress.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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