Magnificat - Philippe Rogier - The Oxford Times (Live)

Why is Flemish composer Philippe Rogier so widely ignored? It's a question that continued to puzzle throughout Magnificat's wonderful exploration of his music last Friday, for these are pieces that deserve to be aired much more frequently. So hats off to Magnificat for using the 450th anniversary of the composer's birth to highlight the work of this unjustly neglected master of polyphony.

From the moment the singers, unseen, began filling New College Chapel with sublime sounds, it was clear we were in for a memorable evening. They began with the motet Inclita stirps Jesse by French composer Jacobus Clemens, a close contemporary whose music inspired the young Rogier when he was working at the court of King Philip II of Spain. This was sung entirely in the ante-chapel, before the singers paraded into the chapel for the rest of the programme, which was devoted entirely to Rogier, thus making a physical separation between the two composers. Rogier's own Missa Inclita stirps Jesse followed, a glorious polyphonic sound seemingly enhanced by the stunning backdrop of the elaborately carved reredos behind the altar.

Conductor Philip Cave, a former lay-clerk of New College and founding member of the Tallis Scholars, ensured a clear and precise delivery, combined with a tonal warmth and perfect blending of voices that delighted throughout.

After the interval, the vocal ensemble was joined by His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts, adding another glorious dimension to the evening. Rogier's Missa Philippus Secundus Rex Hispaniae formed the framework for this part of the evening, alongside the motet Da Pacem Domine and the Cantate Domino, a setting of Psalm 95, and an organ solo based on Clemens's music and composed by another of Rogier's contemporaries, Antonio de Cabezón.

This concert was a real treat; an evening of wonderful, luscious sounds from a highly accomplished ensemble. If you missed it, look out for Magnificat's new recording of Rogier music; visit for details.

The Oxford Times (Live)
02 March 2011