Putting Clemens Non Papa back on top

Conductor Stephen Rice leads the Brabant Ensemble in a wonderful performance of one of music's most underrated composers

Composer: Clemens Non Papa
Repertoire: Requiem; motets 
Artists: The Brabant Ensemble/Stephen Rice
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Choral
Label: Hyperion CDA 67848

The Music: Clemens Non Papa’s Requiem is simpler in texture and less songlike in melody than most of his masses. Parts weave satisfyingly around clear plainsong themes usually in the tenor. The last of three cadences in the Agnus jolts the ear: it suddenly sounds like modern Tavener. The motets are more complex, even witty like De Profundis which is pitched high and rises. 

The Performance: The Brabant Ensemble grips immediately with the pure serenity of its immaculately tuned, perfectly balanced sound in the Requiem opening. Conductor Rice judges the gradual climb to climax superbly and the singers’ sumptuous tone at full volume is overwhelming. Listen to the ‘pleni’ sequence in the Sanctus. It’s classic word-painting. Their plainsong introductions to the Requiem movements are sung with expression. These are no bored, deadpan monks. One senses everywhere excitement and pleasure in this underperformed repertoire. Occasional unearthed, jewel-like dissonances, as on ‘Redemptio’ in De Profundis, reward attentive digging hugely. 

The Verdict: If Rice and his choir have not set Clemens Non Papa back on the pedestal he enjoyed during his life (1510-1556) with this disc, there is no justice. 

Want More? Easy - the Brabant Ensemble sings Clemens again on Behold How Joyful. That’s on Signum Records (SIGCD 045).