Lasso: Prophetiae Sibyllarum; Dixit Dominus; Angelus ad pastores; Quem vidistis pastores; Videntes stellam; Ave Maria; Magnificat

Reviewed on Mon 21 Dec, 2015

Orlando di Lasso's Prophetiae Sibyllarum, a cycle of 12 motets featuring Sibylline prophecies that make apparent reference to the Virgin Mary, was so highly regarded by his employer, the Duke of Bavaria, that its publication was prohibited during his lifetime, and its expressive, extreme chromaticism surprises to this day.

Orlando di Lasso (1530/32-1594), probably the most celebrated European composer of his time, spent most of his working life at the court of the profligate, art-loving Duke of Bavaria in Munich; financial economies eventually resulted in his dismissal on the same day that he died. Prophetiae Sibyllarum, a cycle of 12 motets featuring Sibylline prophecies that make apparent reference to the Virgin Mary, was so highly regarded by his employer that its publication was prohibited during his lifetime, and its expressive, extreme chromaticism (probably deriving from Lasso's exposure to Italian musical style when working in Rome) surprises to this day. It's perhaps a shame, then, that this otherwise very fine release offers rather a serene treatment of this work by Daniel Reuss and his Berlin-based choir. A number of shorter Christmas-related works are also included, of which Quem vidistes, pastores and Videntes stellam are perhaps the most touching and accessible. A release well worth exploring.
–Chris Achenbach