Album review: Contrapunctus Libera, Nos: the Cry of the Oppressed (Signum Classics)


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The Independent Culture

Owen Rees's vocal ensemble Contrapunctus here presents a programme of Renaissance polyphony ingeniously employing lamentations for the subjugation of Jerusalem as code expressions of the plight of both English Catholics under Protestant rule, and Portuguese oppressed by Spanish hegemony. It's a rich seam of material by such as Tallis, Byrd and Cardoso.

The theme is most evocatively summarised in the line from Psalm 136, “How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?” This forms the root both of Philippe de Monte's enchanting eight-voice motet setting of “Super Flumina Babylonis”, and William Byrd's equally exquisite response, “Quomodo Cantabimus”.

Download: Civitas Sancti Tui; Super Flumina Babylonis; Quomodo Cantabimus; Infelix Ego