Composers: Praetorius
Compositions:​ Motets in 8, 10, 12, 16 & 20 Parts​Performers:​ Stephen Farr o, Alamire, His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts/Skinner​
Catalogue Number:​ INVENTA INV001

At the start of the 17th century, Hieronymus Praetorius was one of North Germany’s most celebrated figures, synonymous with an Italianate polychoral style inspired by the likes of Lassus. While his smaller-scale works (mostly in eight parts) have gained a foothold on disc, the grander ones (12, 16, even 20 parts) have remained silent. Now David Skinner and Alamire join forces with His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts to put that right.

And what a glorious noise they make. Voices and instruments are heard separately and, most thrillingly, together. Skinner plays with texture, interweaving brass and voices in the arresting opening Dixit Dominus and, to lighter more agile effect, in the exhilarating dance Iubilate Deo. But it’s the mighty 20-part Decantabat Populus that is most striking. Here voices and instruments find themselves in opposition – echoing one another, sharing phrases and motifs that are subtly transformed by each texture. The effect is magisterial and spacious, the engineers preserving an impressive vertical clarity through the densest passages.

The Missa Summa gives Stephen Farr the chance to showcase his deft embellishments and the many colours and voices of the 1554 Roskilde organ. Setting the lively contrapuntal interplay of the motets in relief, these sterner movements allow the ear to take pause – to be startled and delighted again and again by the pillowy depth and breadth of the polychoral masterpieces.

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