Libera nos: The Cry of the Oppressed
The texts of this collection of well-known motets take up the cry ‘Libera nos’, common to both the Portuguese and English recusants (actual or presumed) who account for all but one work chosen here. The most remarkable additions are the vocal rendition of the title-work by Tallis and the Laboravi in gemitu meo by Martin Peerson, which sports such a string of so-called English cadences as might almost be thought humorous in another context.
The familiarity of Contrapunctus with this repertoire will come as little surprise. There is considerable security and confidence in their interpretations, therefore; but might the recital’s theme prevent the ensemble from displaying the full range of its expressive capability? Certainly the risk of uniformity would have been defused (at least partly) had the same basic starting tempo not been chosen in all but a couple of cases. Compare the performances of de Monte’s work and Byrd’s response to it with those of Gallicantus, released on the same label last year (10/12): the Byrd (Quomodo cantabimus) could surely have been taken at least a touch faster and more might have been done with the occasional chromaticisms of the other selections. A recital better dipped into than taken in at a sitting; but, at its best, intriguing and rewarding on its own terms.