Christophe Plantin was one of the 16th century’s greatest publishers and by a stroke of luck the complete contents of his business have survived – they are now displayed in the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp. As we can see from this release’s generously illustrated booklet, Plantin’s scores were first class, combining beauty and clarity. Paul van Nevel’s Huelgas Ensemble has recorded an absorbing selection of sacred and secular works published by Plantin. With the exception of Palestrina, the composers here are fairly obscure, but don’t let that put you off – there are many treasures to be enjoyed.

Amongst the sacred items, the Agnus Dei from Jacobus de Kerle’s Missa Da Pacem Domine impresses not only for its spacious scoring in six and then nine parts, but for the intensity of its performance. Two movements from Philippus de Monte’s Missa Si Ambulavero and the Gloria and Agnus Dei from George de la Hèle’s Missa Praeter Rerum Seriem benefit from a similar fervour. Palestrina’s taut hymn setting, Conditor alme siderum seems a little plain in comparison.

On the secular side of the program, chansons by Andreas Pevernage and Claude le Jeune provide a charming, intimate contrast, some being enhanced by virginal accompaniment. Pevernage’s Pleurez Muses is a heartfelt epitaph to Plantin’s considerable legacy. These committed and well recorded performances are worth
seeking out.

Composer: Palestrina, Jeune, Kerle, Pevernage
Performer: Huelgas Ensemble/Paul van Nevel
Catalogue Number: DHM 19075809722