DE LA RUE Requiem. Missa de Beata Virgine
Since this recording was first issued in 2004 there have been at least two new recordings of La Rue’s Requiem, by The Clerks’ Group and Cappella Pratensis, alongside of which the performance of Ensemble Officium could be considered a touch safe. The sound of their mixed voices is great and the balance very good. Moreover, they tackle the tricky problem of ranges and transpositions in a sensible and musically attractive manner.
On the other hand, La Rue’s De Beata Virgine Mass appears not to have been recorded otherwise (like a fair number of La Rue’s 30-odd Masses). And it is very good to have it in a performance in which everything fits beautifully together, everything is absolutely clear to the ear, and – once again – the sound is great. Here they introduce chant Propers between the movements of the Ordinary, sung by women only (which is an odd choice, though it sounds good and works nicely). As so often, I tend personally to regret the inclusion of so much chant but no Preface to precede the Sanctus, since the Sanctus, like the Gloria and Credo, begins in the middle of a sentence.
As before, the note informs us more about the chapel of Frederick the Wise in Wittenberg rather than the Burgundian ducal chapel where La Rue worked; but that is partly to draw attention to La Rue’s wide international resonance, about which we know largely from the magnificent Wittenberg choirbooks, now in Jena.