Morales's five-part setting of the Requiem is one of the masterpieces of the 16th century and was actually published twice during his lifetime. The 'Missa pro defunctis' follows the customary pattern of the time. Each section begins with a unison Gregorian intonation, which then continues as a cantus firmus in the upper part as the other voices spin a polyphonic texture underneath. The work avoids obvious madrigalisms, but maintains an austere, meditative texture, which is both spiritual and moving.
Yet another Christmas release features the Christmas vocal polyphony of Cristobal de Morales, who is regarded as the first significant Spanish composer of the Renaissance. Like most compositions for this Christian feast, his Christmas motets circulated and were performed throughout Europe, traveling far beyond Spain's borders. His archaic, mystical and expressive musical language, that one almost might term place-less and timeless, must have played a role in this dissemination. Moreover, Morales was active not only in Spanish cathedrals but also spent many years of his creative career as a papal singer in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
Schubert himself was an able violinist, whose idiomatic writing for the instrument is charmingly evident in his violin and piano sonatas. Moreover, enhanced by sympathetic recording, Biondi and Tverskaya here play a modern copy of a 1740 violin, and a c1820 Graf fortepiano that vividly evoke this music’s fragrant atmosphere. Arresting spontaneity invigorated by Biondi’s stylish extempore ornamentation reveals a potent mix of youthful vigour, ardent passion and delicate poignancy. An essential disc for all Schubertians.
The concert at London’s Royal Festival Hall in April last year was one of those rousing ringside events where the supporters gather as at a great party and everybody has a tremendous time cheering and asking for more. The recording was made the following month in Henry Wood Hall, and it preserves much of the sparky atmosphere of the live occasion though of course leaving to us the cheering (which I’m afraid in this establishment is reduced to a grunt or two, usually of approval, from the depths of the armchair).