Henricus ISAAC: In the time of Lorenzo de’ Medici and Maximilan I – Hespèrion XXI/ La Capella Reial de Catalunya/ Jordi Savall – Alia Vox multichannel SACD AVSA9922, 76:06 (Distr. by [PIAS] Classics) *****:
Magnificent readings of music by an underperformed master.
Henricus Isaac (also known as Heinrich Isaac, 1450 – 1519) is one of the true masters of an extraordinarily complex and difficult age. He was born in Brabant, but spent most of his life in Burgundy, Austria, Italy, and Germany. Florence became the city he would always call home, in no small part because of the invitation of Lorenzo the Magnificent, whose patronage established Isaac as a man of fame, renown, and respect. Yet even after the repose of the magnificent one, Isaac could leave the Medici court and become the chief composer under Emperor Maximilian I.
He was prolific, inspired, educated, and perhaps the foremost master of the art of counterpoint of any contemporary. His influence was wide and profound. Anton Webern adored him. The richness of his polyphony, the astonishing independence of the voices, and the exquisite melodic impulses that underline everything he does makes one wonder why he isn’t more well- known and appreciated.
This disc is a good place to start, and goes a long way towards rectifying the situation. Isaac wrote instrumental pieces, secular songs, and a plethora of masterly religious works. We get a fine mix of motets, songs, and instrumentals, presented in a sequence that marks a vague outline of the significant events of his life and age. Isaac would of course be co-opted by some in the Reformation, but his origins are earlier—he was a true man of the Humanist Renaissance, and certainly deserves a place in the Netherlandish pantheon.
Savall and company are completely up to speed in this music, giving us beautifully spaced multichannel sound in superb performances. This is one of the best of the Alia Vox releases, and that is saying quite a lot.
1. La morra (instrumental)
2. Motet : Sustinuimus pacem
3. Fanfare of the Medicis: Palle, palle (instrumental)
4. Motet : Parce, Domine
5. Chanson : Innsbruck, ich mu? dich lassen
6. Carnival song: Hora e di maggio
7. Instrumental song: A la battaglia
8. Lament: Quis dabit capiti meo aquan
9. Motet : Sancti spiritus assit nobis gratia
10. Motet : Angeli, Archangeli
11. Instrumental motet (Duc de Ferrara) : La Mi La Sol
12. Motet : Optime Divino date munere pastor ovili
13. Motet (Choralis Constantinus) : Circumdederunt me
14. Song : O Welt, ich mu? dich lassen
15. Motet (Contrafactum de Virgo prudentissima) : Christus, filius Dei