Roland de Lassus: Prophetae Sibyllarum and Christmas Motets

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Program: #10-52   Air Date: Dec 20, 2010

The ensemble Weser-Renaissance under Manfred Cordes gives us a rich tapestry of Advent and Christmas music from this renaissance master.

NOTE: All of the music on this program came from this recording of Christmas material by Orlando di Lasso (Roland de Lassus, 1532-1594). The performances are by Weser-Renaissance Bremen conducted by Manfred Cordes.
The CPO CD is # 777 468-2. For more information on this ensemble:

Orlando di Lasso: Christmas Motets

1). Omnes de Saba venient ("All shall come from Saba")

2). Carmina chromatica ("The songs your hear are set in the chromatic mode")

3). Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Persica)

Virgine matre ("Born of a Virgin, he shall sit on a swaybacked donkey").

4). Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Libyca)
Ecce dies venient ("Behold, the day shall come")

5). Jerusalem plantabis vineam ("Jerusalem, you shall plant a vine")

6). Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Delphica}
Non tarde ("The event shall not delay in coming")

7). Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Cimmeria)
In teneris ("During his infancy, his worthy countenance a delight to behold")

8). Sidus ex claro veniet("Like a star from the bright Olympian heights")

9). Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Samia)

Ecce dies nigras ("Behold, the happy day destined to dispel the dark gloom")

10). Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Cuma)
Jam mea ("My most recent words now shall surely and truly stand")

11). Sacrae cantiones, Book 4
Cum natus esset Jesus ("When Jesus was born in Bethlehem")

12). Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Hellesopontica)
Dum meditor ("While I was once meditating, I saw a maiden adorning herself")

13). Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Phrygia)
Ipsa Deum ("I myself saw the highest God")

14). Descendit sicut pluvia ("He comes down like rain onto the sheepskins")

15). Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Europeaea)

Virginis aeternum (The eternal, pure Word shall come forth from a Virgin's womb")

16). Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Tiburtina)
Verax ipse ("The true God Himself gave me this gift of prophecy")

17). Mirabile mysterium ("A wonderful mystery is proclaimed today")

18). Verbum caro factum est ("The word became flesh")

19). Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Erythraea)
Summus erit ("I see the Son of God coming down from heaven")

20). Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Agrippa)
Cerno Dei ("He shall be the highest and dearest")

21). Selectiorum aliquot cantionum sacrarum
Jubilemus singuli ("Let each one of us jubilate")

22). Cantiones aliquot
Resonet in laudibus ("Let songs of praise resound")

From Fanfare Magazine:

The Sibylline Prophecies constitutes one of the most familiar works of Lassus. I know of 11 previous recordings, including one that Alpha has not sent for review, and most recently Walter Testolin (Fanfare 31:2) was praised for his interpretation. Like several other versions, this one offers one voice to a part, unaccompanied (except for a harp) like the last five issues. But in a program unlike any previous version, the movements are sung in pairs with a motet inserted after each pair to break up the sequence, and all the motets include an instrumental ensemble. The motets are set for five to eight voices, and the parts are distributed in various combinations among the six singers and seven players. At one end of the spectrum, Jerusalem plantabis and Descendit sicut pluvia have one singer and four players, while Sidus ex claro veniens has five singers with harp and Jubilemus singuli has six singers with harp. The others are more elaborate. All are Christmas motets complementing the theme of the prophecies, which were written in the composer’s time as a Humanist revival of the Classical pagan sibyls, who had long been seen as pagan prophets of the coming of Christ.

Manfred Cordes suggests in his notes that the chromaticism of the main work does not wear well, militating against listening straight through, hence his decision to insert the relief provided by the contrasting motets. This is a good notion and it distinguishes this set from the competition. The first and last motets are the most familiar, and Cum natus esset Jesus was on a Hilliard Ensemble disc, but the rest may possibly be first recordings. Cordes has been giving us a dependable run of recordings on this label, including a recent Lassus disc (31:1), so there are probably readers already prepared to grab this one. The singing and playing are admirable.

FANFARE: J. F. Weber

Composer Info

Roland de Lassus, 1532-1594.

CD Info

# 777 468-2

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