Early Music America,
Lionheart - El Siglo De Oro: Chant
and Polyphony of Renaissance Spain
KIC-CD-7676 - 60:08 minutes
I can't think of another group that sings chant as lyrically as Lionheart. On so
many other programs of chant and polyphony, you find yourself waiting for the
group to get past the chant, which sounds so thin, so you can hear the "good
stuff." But everything is the good stuff when these six men sing.
This CD features the Missa Ave Maria of Cristobal de Morales (c.1500-1553)
interspersed with motets from Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599) and Gregorian
chants for the Feast of the Annunciation from a 1557 choral book printed in
Salamanca. The motets are almost all in Spanish. It's a surprising sound for the
ears because this is, in many ways, music straight out of the Roman tradition.
(Guerrero was closely associated with the cathedral in his native Seville, but
published much of his music in Italy. Both composers wrote for the Papal choir.)
What makes this Lionheart performance so good? Start with the
basics: articulation, blend, balance, tone, timing, changes in rhythm and tempo
(often difficult ones, because these are, after all, Spanish composers). They
sing with a great sensitivity to the text. And then there are the intangibles.
The voices are rich, lush, innately musical - all without the kind of emoting
that would be inappropriate in this context. There is a complexity of sound in
even the most simple, straightforward works - a complexity that makes you want
to listen again and again.