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Jean RICHAFORT (c.1480-after 1547)
Requiem à six voix (in memoriam Josquin Desprez) [34:33]
Lætamini in Domino à 4 voix [3:10]
Sufficiebat nobis paupertas à 4 voix [6:08]
Salve Regina à 5 voix [8:35]
Ne vous chaille mon cueur à 4 voix [2:12]
Tru tru trut avant à 3 voix [1:56]
Il n’est si douce vie à 4 voix [4:14]
Huelgas Ensemble/Paul van Nevel
rec. 2001 (?) before 2002. DDD.
Booklet enclosed, texts available online.
HARMONIA MUNDI MUSIQUE D’ABORD HMA1951730 [60:53]

Experience Classicsonline


 
The Original Harmonia Mundi Musique d’Abord LP series was a decidedly economical venture, in plain white sleeves like 78s and with a printed paper insert containing notes. Though it included some very desirable performances, such as that of the Deller Consort in the Prague Easter Play, a dealer – yes, there used to be such beings – once told me that people were wary of buying what looked like a cheap offering. On CD the series has hitherto looked elegant rather than cheap and has continued to offer much more than basic repertoire in reliable performances – often much more than reliable.
 
Now Musique d’Abord has been revamped in bright colours but once again in economy packaging, a simple tri-fold cardboard sleeve, slimmer than the usual for such packages since the CD is contained not on a plastic tray but slid into a pocket. The disc itself is black on both sides, with the label side made to resemble a miniature LP – where have we seen that before? The notes are easily missed because they reside in another pocket.
 
The economy, unfortunately, affects the value of the offering, since the tri-lingual notes are very sparse – not even Richafort’s presumed dates, for which I was indebted to Hyperion (below) until I saw them in small grey print not in the booklet on the back cover – and the promise of texts from harmoniamundi.com had not borne fruit at the time of writing. I’ve even had to guess at the date of the recording from the information (P) 2002 and the fact that the original CD appeared in March of that year. As for the illustration from the Rusconi Codex to which Paul van Nevel refers in the notes, that’s no longer included.
 
Actually we know very little about Richafort but in compensation the notes concentrate on guiding us through the music. What really matters is the quality of that music, performance and recording and the fact that there is only one other recording of Richafort’s Requiem for Josquin, a recent arrival from Cinquecento on Hyperion (CDA67959 – review and August 2012_1 Download Roundup).
 
Apart from the opening Requiem æternam, where the time difference is due to the Paul van Nevel’s failure to repeat the opening words, Cinquecento take all the sections of the Mass slightly more quickly than the Huelgas Ensemble; there is consequently a greater sense of grief and grandeur from the latter, though it’s not overdone. In fact, oddly enough, their performance of the first motet which follows, lætamini in Domino, though a setting of a joyful text (Rejoice in the Lord), actually sounds more stately than the Communio of the Mass, Lux æterna which precedes it on track 7. That’s not inappropriate since, despite the words of the text, the music is more intense than Purcell’s joyous response to the same words in the ‘Bell’ Anthem.
 
For the Requiem I could be happy with either performance; the more sumptuous presentation and documentation of the Hyperion comes at a higher price, around twice that of the Harmonia Mundi, which you should be able to find for around £5, though it’s possible to save on the Hyperion by downloading in mp3 or CD-quality flac, complete with the de luxe booklet and texts, for £7.99. (There’s also a better-than-CD 24-bit version for £12.) Don’t try to download the Harmonia Mundi recording; it’s likely to cost more than the CD!
 
The motets, sacred and secular, make an attractive coupling whereas Hyperion have music by Josquin and other contemporaries. Only on track 12, the jolly Tru, tru, trut avant, il fault boire, did I think that the Huelgas Ensemble were a little too large for the music, losing some of the jollity thereby – would a large crowd of drunkards ever sound so disciplined? In this motet, too, the recording, otherwise very good, sounds a little too reverberant. This track is available to sample on YouTube and there’s an online score here.
 
If you are looking for a cross-section of Richafort’s music, well performed and recorded, you need look no further than this Harmonia Mundi reissue. Its rival on Hyperion is a little more sprightly in the Requiem and comes with better documentation, but at a higher price and with music by other contemporaries rather than with Richafort’s own music which completes the Harmonia Mundi disc.
 
Brian Wilson

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