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ReviewsDivine Theatre

Giaches de Wert recording receives excellent first review

Jon Sobel, (January 18, 2017)

Divine Theatre: Sacred Motets by Giaches de Wert from the English a capella choir Stile Antico, on the Harmonia Mundi label, presents an array of gorgeous music by the 16th-century Flemish-born composer Giaches de Wert. Wert spent his career in Italy, mostly in Mantua, and is known to have influenced his younger contemporary Monteverdi. Otherwise little is known of his biography.

Though better known for his madrigals, Wert also published three collections of dramatic settings of sacred texts and liturgy. In some, he bent the compositional rules of the day in quest of a richer palette with which to convey the meaning of the text. Through the voices and sensibilities of a dedicated ensemble like Stile Antico, they all speak to us today, regardless of whether we feel or even note their religious content, or of how closely they conform to the standards of the day. Rachel’s inconsolable sadness is palpable in the “Vox in Rama audita est.” Polychoral writing deftly depicts Jesus’ dialogue with Saul in “Saule, Saule.” “Ascendente Jesu” is stormily picturesque. That’s the magic of great music, especially when it’s performed with utmost skill. Stile Antico brings brilliantly to life this highly varied selection of Wert’s beautiful motets.