Nicholas Ludford, Volume 2

Author: 
Fabrice Fitch

Nicholas Ludford, Volume 2

  • Missa Benedicta
  • Magnificat Benedicta

The excitement generated by the release of the Mass Videte miraculum (see DF's review in 7/93) is undoubtedly the strongest recommendation for this second instalment of Ludford's festal Masses. There is here the same sense of discovery, of sublime music restored to its rightful place. Yet the works on this disc are in sharp contrast to those in the previous issue. The Mass and Magnificat Benedicta et venerabilis (Ludford based both works on the same plainchant) have two equal bass parts, where Videte miraculum had two trebles. The startling shift in emphasis is a mark of Ludford's resourcefulness.
If this release confirms the importance of the set as a whole, the interpretations themselves are a touch disappointing. This is partly to do with the work's scoring: with three singers on each part, low voices heavily outnumber high ones. Balance might have been restored by reducing the number of tenors and basses, but the rather dry acoustic, while ideal for Videte miraculum, only underscores the relative isolation of the trebles in these works. The slight thickness of sound may account for an overly elastic approach to tempo, which slackens considerably within sections, only to be jacked up at the next tutti. This causes occasional problems of articulation, and undermines the sense of form and of poise that are so essential to Mass-movements of this length. But if this disc somehow lacks the polish of its predecessor, ultimately the music's dark richness shines through. More, please.'

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