Classical Music

Spectacularly fine performances of sacred motets by Giaches de Wert show him to be a composer of distinctive style

Spectacularly fine performances of sacred motets by Giaches de Wert show him to be a composer of distinctive style


The Flemish composer, Giaches
de Wert (c. 1535-1596)
is believed to have been born in Antwerp. He was
sent to Italy at a young age where he became a chorister at the house of Maria
di Cardona, Marchese della Padulla. He later became a member of the choir
formed by Alfonso Gonzaga at Novellara but soon made connections with the
nearby ducal courts of Mantua where he eventually became maestro di cappella at
the ducal chapel of S. Barbara, Mantua.
HMM 807620
The whole choir opens Gaudete
in Domino a 5
(Rejoice in the Lord). It is full of life and vitality, as Wert’s
wonderful harmonies are woven with a feeling of true rejoicing to a sonorous
Hoc enim sentite in
vobis a 5
(For let this attitude be yours) slowly expands with this choir
bringing the most exquisite textures and sonorities, all the while individual
sections of the choir shining through, finding some lovely subtle nuances,
shaping this music beautifully. The music rises centrally through some
wonderfully uplifting passages, the choir later bringing some lovely rich
Stile Antico bring a fine rhythmic control to the fine part
writing of Saule, Saule a8, a
distinctive motet that would surely bring challenges for any choir. This choir
responds wonderfully, shaping some lovely passages.
Male voices open the slow and mournful motet, Vox in Rama audita est a 5 (A voice was
heard in Ramah) expanding across the choir with the female voices adding some
very lovely moments. As the motet develops, this choir rises through some
passages that positively glow before bringing this quite wonderful work to a
beautifully controlled conclusion.
The choir rises through some finely transparent, beautifully
blended moments in Amen, amen dico vobis
a 5 (Truly, truly, I say to you)
finding passages of rhythmic buoyancy around
a gentler flow before picking up in rhythm to all but dance to the end.
Stile Antico bring some of their finest harmonies in Egressus Jesus a7 (Jesus went out) with
some distinctive rising phrases that lift this music, often bringing a great passion.
The choir sounds out passionately in the opening of Peccavi super numerum a6 (I have sinned
more than the number) before finding a gentler flow in this gently rising and
falling penitent motet. This choir find so many wonderful moments, bringing a
great subtlety and attention to every detail, picking up rhythmically before a
gentle conclusion.
There is a gentle yet passionate opening to O Crux ave, spes unica a5 (Hail, O Cross,
our only hope), this choir finding a subtle fluctuation of emotional strength, a
lovely ebb and flow throughout as this mournful text unfolds.
The six voices used in Ascendente
Jesu in naviculam a6
(When Jesus had climbed into the boat) weave some very
lovely harmonies and sonorities, responding wonderfully to every little
rhythmic detail with some particularly fine moments for the female voices before
leading to a remarkably fine coda.
Female voices take the motet Virgo Maria hodie ad coelum a6 (Today the Virgin Mary is taken up
into heaven) joyfully and buoyantly
forward, the whole choir joining to weave some extraordinarily fine harmonies with
some beautifully controlled moments at Quasi
flos rosarum in diebus vernis
, (As
the flower of roses in the spring)
such a fine gentle blend of voices that,
nevertheless, retains a fine forward momentum.
A single tenor opens Quiescat
vox tua a ploratu a6
(Keep your voice from weeping) joined immediately by the
other voices to slowly weave and blend the most lovely sonorities in another
mournful motet, a setting of Jeremiah, yet finding moments of greater rhythmic
The whole choir brings a radiant Deus iustus, et salvans a6 (A just God and a Saviour) a perfect
vehicle for Stile Antico’s glorious choral textures, rising and falling through
some terrific passages.  

O altitudo divitiarum
(Oh, the height of riches) is
an ideal motet to conclude this disc, the choir finding a wonderful, ever
changing pulse and rubato as this piece moves ahead through such fine textures. 

It is this choir’s exquisite control, ability to shape and
colour and lift the music that makes these performances so spectacularly fine,
showing Giaches de Wert to be a composer of distinctive style. Stile Antico
receive a first class recording from All Hallows’ Church, Gospel Oak, London,
UK and there are excellent booklet notes from Matthew O’Donovan.


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