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Francisco de Peñalosa: Lamentations

review peñalosa lamentations x1 cong

This is a beautiful collection of religious music from the Renaissance. If you like religious vocal music that errs towards the sombre — the album title gives it away— this is a must. The singing is fantastic and the acoustics of wherever it was recorded only add to the experience.

Peñalosa’s music is redolent of its age (he lived 1470–1528), reaching forward in time to enchant the modern listener while echoing the centuries since its composition. If you’re having a bad day, a listen to this while remembering the Persian adage “this too shall pass” will do wonders.

It’s so engrossing we were almost disappointed to see the cover photo of the singers from New York Polyphony: men in suits. (They sing well, obviously). The mental image is of a sea of monks, cowls nodding reverentially as they sing. The sleeve notes / New York Polyphony website says the lamentations were for services held during Holy Week and are set to biblical texts lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem.

A motet and a villancico by Spanish composer Francisco Guerrero (born 1528, the year de Peñalosa died) and a piece by Pedro de Escobar (a “deeply haunting” setting of the beginning of the hymn Stabat Mater says New York Polyphony) complement the Peñalosa. Wonderful.

Out now on BIS, BIS2407.

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