Guerrero: Missa L'Homme Armé, etc - review

Ensemble La Sestina/Giardina
(Deutsche Harmonia Mundi)

Francisco Guerrero composed 19 masses, but only one of them, the Missa L'Homme Armé, based on the medieval song that provided inspiration to generations of composers from Machaut onwards, was scored for high voices only, with two soprano lines, alto and tenor. Based upon Morales's five-mass of the same name and shorter and more straightforward than Guerrero's other mass settings, it probably dates from his youth in the mid 1540s, and perhaps for that reason and because of its unusual scoring, it was never published in his lifetime. La Sestina's recording, the first apparently, interweaves the movements with a selection of Guerrero's motets, including the glorious Gabriel Archangelus and Sancta et Immaculata, as well as some of his sacred canciones and villanescas, which use Spanish texts and seem strikingly different from his hieratically beautiful Latin settings. La Sestina are a hugely accomplished group, but the rather warm, close recording does their rapt singing no favours. The effect is almost too cosy; music of this grandeur seems to demand more space and detachment.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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