WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Guerrero: Missa Sancta Et Immaculata, Motets, Etc / Westminster Cathedral Choir


Release Date: 08/12/2008 
Label:  Helios   Catalog #: 55313   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Francisco Guerrero
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Music, singing, recording and presentation are all of the highest quality.

Two extraneous considerations prevented my nominating this Bargain of the Month. I have just given that accolade to the reissued Solti Rheingold and am almost equally confident that I shall also award it to another Hyperion Helios reissue, Lancaster and Valois (Machaut et al, sung by Gothic Voices CDH55294). I lost out on my bid to review the latter, but have ordered my own copy in the expectation that it will be as highly recommendable as the other Gothic Voices recordings on Helios which I have reviewed. You need hardly wait for my review of Lancaster and Valois – the excerpts on offer on the Hyperion website will almost certainly convince you
Read more of its worth.

Musicologists usually rank Guerrero alongside Victoria as the luminaries of the siglo de oro, the Golden Age of Spanish music. If you don’t already know Victoria’s music, there are three excellent Hyperion CDs, again with the Westminster Cathedral Choir (CDA66114, directed by David Hill; CDA67479 and CDA66886, James O’Donnell. CDA67479 is also available as an SACD, SACDA67479). Guerrero’s music is a little less strikingly individual than Victoria’s, but well worth getting to know.

Born in Seville in 1528, Guerrero died there in 1599, having been successively maestro de capilla of Jaén Cathedral (1546-9), deputy maestro (1551) and maestro (1574-99) of Seville Cathedral. Unlike Victoria, who studied in Rome, possibly under Palestrina, he travelled there only in his maturity (1581-2), making a further visit to Venice and the Holy Land in 1588-9. His 18 published masses and numerous motets remained in use in Spain and Latin-America for more than two centuries after his death. His brother Pedro was his first teacher and he completed his studies with Cristóbal de Morales.

In saying that Guerrero’s music is less striking than Victoria’s, I don’t mean in any way to belittle it. The superlatives that were heaped on this recording when it first appeared were fully justified in terms of the quality of the music as well the performance and recording. The five-part Mass which takes up the first half of the CD is essentially bright and festal in nature, partly due to Guerrero’s expansion of a 4-part original with the addition of an extra superior or treble part. The work is based on his teacher Morales’ motet Sancta et immaculata virginitas but transformed almost beyond recognition – the original Morales theme is printed in the booklet in square notation to facilitate the listener who wishes to try.

Hei mihi, Domine, is a penitential work, published with the revised version of Guerrero’s Requiem but essentially an independent piece, solemn but not lugubrious. Its choice for the Hyperion sampler of the Westminster cathedral performances was very apt. Trahe me is a Marian motet, an early work but a very successful one.

The remaining pieces are all associated with Vespers. The Magnificat is one of ten published in his Liber Vesparum, alternate verses sung in polyphony and chanted in the style of plainsong which was practised in Spain in the 16th Century.

The three hymns which end the recording are more hispano, in the Spanish style: the well-known Vexilla Regis, for Passiontide and feasts of the Holy Cross; O lux beata for Trinity Sunday and Lauda mater a vigorous hymn for St Mary Magdalene to a text superseded in 1603.

The plainsong sections of the Magnificat are, of course, meat and drink to the Westminster Cathedral Choir but so is the rest of the music. It is often said that English choirs sound too well-drilled to perform continental polyphony of this period, but the Westminster Cathedral choristers come nearest to the ‘continental’ style without the rough edges that sometimes accompany it. Given the choice between the precision of King’s, Magdalen or Christ Church choirs in this music and the ragged edges that some Spanish choirs produce, I know which I prefer. I recall being very disappointed by Toledo Cathedral choir’s singing of Victoria at Sunday High Mass: the Westminster choristers could lick them into the proverbial hat, not only in the Mass but in the other works.

Professional groups such as The Tallis Scholars and The Sixteen would probably have a different, equally valid, take on this music. The Sixteen, in particular, would probably move some of it along slightly more briskly than O’Donnell (see their version of Guerrero’s Ave virgo sanctissima on Coro COR16001), but the music benefits from the extra space which it is given here and from the use of boys’ voices on the top line.

Hyperion are presumably awaiting the response to this reissue to decide whether to reissue their other Guerrero recording, also with James O’Donnell and the Westminster Cathedral Choir. Though deleted, this recording is currently available to order under Hyperion’s Archive Service (Missa de la battalia escoutez, CDA67075). I very much hope that sales are sufficiently encouraging for this second CD also to be reissued – please do your bit by purchasing CDH55313. I don’t own shares in Hyperion, but I have yet to listen to one of their Helios medieval and renaissance reissues which didn’t warrant a recommendation – only their Vaughan Williams’ Tudor Portraits and Mystical Songs ares a little too anaemic for my taste.

With singing, recording and presentation of this quality – the booklet in no way inferior to the original full-price issue – and at the new price, there is every reason to place your order forthwith. Why delay? While you’re about it, don’t forget the earlier Helios reissue of the same performers in Lassus’ Missa Bell’ Amfitrit’ altera (CDH55212).

-- Brian Wilson, MusicWeb International
Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Missa "Sancta et immaculata": Kyrie by Francisco Guerrero
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1566; Spain 
Length: 4 Minutes 35 Secs. 
2.
Missa "Sancta et immaculata": Gloria by Francisco Guerrero
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1566; Spain 
Length: 5 Minutes 56 Secs. 
3.
Missa "Sancta et immaculata": Credo by Francisco Guerrero
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1566; Spain 
Length: 9 Minutes 21 Secs. 
4.
Missa "Sancta et immaculata": Sanctus by Francisco Guerrero
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1566; Spain 
Length: 3 Minutes 43 Secs. 
5.
Missa "Sancta et immaculata": Benedictus by Francisco Guerrero
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1566; Spain 
Length: 3 Minutes 5 Secs. 
6.
Missa "Sancta et immaculata": Agnus Dei by Francisco Guerrero
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1566; Spain 
Length: 3 Minutes 48 Secs. 
7.
Hei mihi, Domine by Francisco Guerrero
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1582; Spain 
Length: 4 Minutes 47 Secs. 
8.
Lauda mater ecclesia by Francisco Guerrero
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; Spain 
Length: 4 Minutes 33 Secs. 
9.
Trahe me post te, Virgo Maria by Francisco Guerrero
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; Spain 
Length: 7 Minutes 41 Secs. 
10.
Magnificat septimi toni by Francisco Guerrero
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: Spain 
Length: 10 Minutes 45 Secs. 
11.
Vexilla Regis by Francisco Guerrero
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1584; Spain 
Length: 3 Minutes 28 Secs. 
12.
O lux beata Trinitas by Francisco Guerrero
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1584; Spain 
Length: 3 Minutes 8 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook




YOU MUST BE A SUBSCRIBER TO LISTEN - TRY IT FREE!
Listen to all your favorite classical music for only $20/month.
Sign up for your monthly subscription service and get unlimited access to the most comprehensive digital catalog of classical music in the world - new releases. bestsellers, advanced releases and more.
Aleady a subscriber? Sign In