Chœur de Chambre de Namur - Arcadelt - BBC Music Magazine

To come across a disc devoted solely to Jacques Arcadelt (c1507-68) is pretty nigh impossible; to encounter three all in one superbly packaged box is a miracle. And we have the 30th anniversary of the Chamber Choir of Namur to thank for a project that fleshes out an ambitious portrait of local-boy-made-good, and one of the greatest of all Franco-Flemish Renaissance composers. It’s painted across three genres in which he excelled: a disc of sacred music entrusted to the Namur choir; one exploring the madrigals allotted to Cappella Mediterranean (both ensembles directed by Leonardo García Alarcón); and, the revelation of the set, a selection of chansons shouldered by Doulce Mémoire under Denis Raisin Dadre.

The trajectory of Arcadelt’s life (Namur, Florence, Rome – where Michelangelo commissioned two settings of his poems – and Paris) is refracted through the vigorous cross-fertilisation to be found in his forward-looking music. The sacred music reflects his roots in the likes of Josquin, while the Chansons are suffused with the madrigal style and sunny sensuality he’d experienced in Italy. Alarcón generally favours a smooth, consummate blend in the sacred works, but keeps the expressive temperature overly chaste and restrained (a more animated ‘Pater noster’ and brightly pointed ‘Gloriosae virginis Mariae’ excepted). A close recording occasionally leaves some members of Cappella Mediterranea uncomfortably exposed in the madrigals which are not always ideally characterised; but hats off to Doulce Mémoire who imbue the chansons with piquancy, tenderness, wit and vivacity. One song pithily hails an evening of fine wine, food… and singing Arcadelt! A landmark, long overdue.

BBC Music Magazine
01 March 2020