Chorworks is a non-profit organization founded in 2005 to explore the rich diversity of choral music. Through concerts and educational workshops, Chorworks offers singers and conductors the opportunity o study and perform choral masterpieces, with an emphasis on the 16th and 17th centuries. Our world-class faculty is drawn from several premier music ensembles, including Anonymous 4, Magnificat, and the Tallis Scholars.
Philippe Rogier: Missa Ego sum qui sum
“A fascinating exploration of this neglected Franco-Flemish composer.”
This is a lovely disc, a worthy addition to this group’s impressive discography and a fascinating exploration of this neglected Franco-Flemish composer. Before his premature death at the age of 35, Rogier composed some 300 works of which some 50 survive, among them eight masses including the spectacular Missa Philippus II and the present setting, based on a motet by Nicolas Gombert. Magnificat sing the mass, Gombert’s motet and other motets by Rogier with the serene confidence which has become the hallmark of their recordings.
BBC Record Review “Building A Library” First Choice
A truly successful recording of the Lamentations needs to find the perfect sense of equilibrium between linear impulsion and harmonic progression, between flow and melodic detail, between contrapuntal logic and underlying textual rhetoric, between the spacious, quasi-static melismatic settings of the Hebrew letters and the density of texture in the wordier passages. The recording that takes all this on board, and with a minimum of fuss and maximum commitment, is that by Magnificat directed by Philip Cave. They approach the work as if it were chamber music which, in a sense, it almost certainly is. With only one singer to a part, the vocal texture is rich but clear and the singers bring out the expressive qualities of the music without the exaggerated crescendos or over-accentuation of the phrasing that can lead to a bumpy ride aurally: rather, there is that unforced yet still purposeful sense of ebb and flow, that balance between intensely sustained singing and forward propulsion that characterises the most successful performances of Renaissance polyphony.
This is, if I may be forgiven for employing a quartet of over-used adjectives, a lush, glorious, moving, sublime disc. It also happens to represent a welcome exposition of yet another largely unsung genius of the late renaissance – the Netherlandish composer Philippe Rogier, of whose work only about a fifth survives, thanks to the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and the fire at the Spanish court in 1734.
Rogier spent his working life, from boyhood to retirement, in the Iberian peninsula. He served Philip II, becoming director of music at 25. The music’s style is intriguing. There’s a leaning towards the mannerist chromaticism of Gesualdo evident in, for instance, the motet Vias tuas – though unlike Gesualdo, Rogier is tastefully sparing with such treatment of texts – while generally a certain Spanish sensibility informs the flavour of his compositions. They have the darkness, the restrained drama, the intensity, the bold colours of Morales, of Guerrero, of Victoria (and yes, of El Greco, too). Yet there’s also the refined, smooth technique cultivated by his Flemish forebears, Josquin and, and particularly, Gombert. Indeed the central work on this disc, the Mass Ego sum qui sum, is a parody based on Gombert’s motet. It was published posthumously – always a good sign of the contemporaneous significance of a composer – along with five other Masses in 1598. The Gombert proves to be a work of complex textures, structurally accomplished, artfully climactic. The Mass follows suit in these respects, but also follows rather too swiftly on the heels of its modal motet. A slightly longer pause for contemplation before Rogier’s gloriously, majestically sonorous, cadence avoiding Kyrie would not have been out of place, for any number of reasons.
Other than the Mass, there are motets such as Peccavi quid faciam tibi, whose falling motives cascade and tumble into each other like a waterfall in slow motion; and Dominus regit me , which shows a Josquin-like variety of scoring. Philip Cave’s astute direction lends the music impetus. A deeply experienced singer of this type of music, he also obtains a sublime blend of voices from his young ensemble. The acoustic of Douai Abbey as captured by Linn’s engineers sounds just gorgeous suffusing the music in a golden warmth while retaining remarkable clarity.