Odhecaton’s Exemplary Palestrina

Review by: David Vernier


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Only heaven (and perhaps the Pope) knows exactly how many recordings there must be of Palestrina’s famed Missa Papae Marcelli, but it’s unusual to find one sung by an all-male adult choir–scored for alto/tenor/baritone/bass (no boy trebles). If you’ve sung these pieces–or are used to hearing them in the common mixed-voice SATB settings–you will be surprised (pleasantly, I predict!) by the special quality of the somewhat lower pitch and unique resonance of the well-matched male-voice timbres. Indeed, you will likely enjoy the experience of hearing this music as both familiar and altogether new.

Odhecaton, an Italian ensemble (19 voices on this recording) directed by Paolo Da Col, specializes in music of the Italian Renaissance, but also expands to include Flemish, French, Spanish, and Portuguese music from the 15th-17th centuries. For this program Da Col determined to “reconstruct (with no claim to authenticity) a hypothetical liturgy with music as it might have been celebrated at the Sistine Chapel”…beginning on Holy Saturday (with Sicut cervus), followed by the Easter Sunday Mass (Missa Papae Marcelli).

This means that there are many musical insertions between the sections of the Ordinary, all but one by Palestrina (the motet Christus resurgens by Felice Anerio), and it all comes together beautifully thanks to the consistently gorgeous, ingratiating sound of this world-class choir and a sincerely felt expressive power that certainly would have sent those 16th-century cardinals running for cover! There are many moments, often at cadences or especially at the ends of movements or works, where you feel overwhelmed by the sheer resonating force of these ensemble voices (the conclusion of the Credo is a highlight).

Many seasoned choir singers will not know that Palestrina’s beloved motet Sicut cervus has a second part. No one ever sings it, but Odhecaton does, and both parts are preceded by (equally obscure) plainchant introductions. You also will hear several other exquisite yet “unsung” works that fit nicely into the program (Victimae Paschali laudes, for two choirs; Laudate Dominum, for 12 voices in three choirs)–and again, there’s never a weak or dull moment. And the ideal recording, made at the historic parochial church of S. Rocco in Miasino, ensures that we will forever hear this splendid choir at its best. This is what a male-voice choir singing Renaissance music should sound like. If you love choral singing–and Palestrina–you will be really missing something if you don’t hear this.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

    Odhecaton, Paolo Da Col

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