Orlando de Lassus: Requiem a 5; Motets (review)

The Choir of Girton College, Cambridge, Historic Brass of Guildhall School, London (Jeremy West, leader) Lucy Morrell, organ and Gareth Wilson, director.

This project reveals Orlando de Lassus’ less familiar Requiem for five-voices as a deserving centrepiece, completed by his own plainchants and motets along with a new arrangement for organ of John Bennett’s madrigal, Weep, O Mine Eyes.

With direction from Gareth Wilson, a 5-piece brass ensemble made up of musicians from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama connects each work and supports the magnificent voices of Girton College Choir. The penultimate track, amongst others, highlights the great skill of Girton’s Organ Scholar, Lucy Morrell.

Lassus is regarded as one of the most influential composers of the Franco-Flemish late Renaissance and his music, especially his motets, brought him fame across Europe. This selection of Lassus’ motets shows the full variety of his style and confirms why he went on to be known as of the most diverse composers of the Renaissance.

The historical connections of the sackbut with the afterlife and the underworld have been recognised and put into focus throughout this project. Lassus’ motets have been turned into instrumental respites, rightfully trusting the brass players – Adam Crighton, James Harold, Ian Sankey and Peter Thornton (Sackbuts) led by Jeremy West on Cornett, to deliver the appropriate colours where the texts would sound.


This brass playing is expressive and effortlessly supports the voices. Vocal interest is carried throughout the programme, even the instrumental numbers show such careful consideration of the text. This is outstanding playing, especially from the ensemble’s leader, cornettist Jeremy West.

With such thoughtful programming, the album plays as a ‘Requiem for the Dead’, exploring themes of death right through to the final piece, the brilliant Levavi oculos meos; an uplifting conclusion to this journey.

This ensemble forms a very interesting colour, displaying a sometimes hauntingly close connection between voice and instrument. This is a celebration of vocal music through fine brass playing and distinguished singing. Together they make for a satisfying listen.

Available from Toccata Classics, #TOCC0397 £8.00 – £14.00

First published in Spring 2017 edition of The Trombonist.