Pasa Tem­pos

Mu­sic by Jac­quet of Man­tua and Jim O’Rourke

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

JAC­QUET OF MAN­TUA Missa Surge Pe­tre & Motets (Hype­r­ion) Mu­sic lovers who ob­serve the shenani­gans of the Duke of Man­tua in this sum­mer’s Santa Fe Opera pro­duc­tion of Rigo­letto might want to spend an hour and a quar­ter ac­quaint­ing them­selves with the work of one of his mu­si­cal pre­de­ces­sors, Jac­quet of Man­tua (1483-1559). The stream of vi­brant Re­nais­sance choral record­ings the Bra­bant En­sem­ble has is­sued on the Hype­r­ion la­bel makes clear that what­ever the group sings is worth hear­ing, so de­pend­ably do the cho­ris­ters (di­rected by Stephen Rice) in­fuse their reper­toire with in­ter­pre­ta­tive con­vic­tion, rhyth­mic vigor, ex­pan­sive phras­ing, and ho­mog­e­nized tim­bre. The lat­est ben­e­fi­ciary of their at­ten­tion was born in Brit­tany but pur­sued his ca­reer mostly in Italy, work­ing for the Estes, Gon­za­gas, and other no­table Man­tuan fam­i­lies for the last 32 years of his life. Jac­quet was the lead­ing com­poser of sa­cred mu­sic in Man­tua through­out that time, but his works re­main largely un­known to­day, partly be­cause the two mod­ern schol­ars most de­voted to his re­viv­i­fi­ca­tion both died early, leav­ing much of their re­search and their edi­tions in­com­plete. His Missa Surge Pe­tre, one of at least 24 com­plete Masses he penned, is still not avail­able in a com­mer­cially pub­lished edi­tion, but it is a mas­terly work, its six-part con­tra­pun­tal tex­ture sweep­ing up the lis­tener, prov­ing sten­to­rian in the Credo and med­i­ta­tive in the Ag­nus Dei. Six motets of vary­ing, dis­tinct char­ac­ters fill out the CD. — James M. Keller

JIM O’ROURKE Sim­ple Songs (Drag City) Since the 1990s, Jim O’Rourke has been some­thing of a For­rest Gump of iconic in­die rock. He be­came a mem­ber of Sonic Youth, started a duo with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy (af­ter mix­ing that band’s cel­e­brated Yan­kee Ho­tel Foxtrot), and has pro­duced work by artists such as Joanna New­som, Stere­o­lab, and John Fa­hey. Through­out this time, he re­leased a string of gem­like al­bums of his own — an out­put which has slowed con­sid­er­ably in the new mil­len­nium. Sim­ple Songs is his first al­bum with vo­cals since 2001. Even though his singing voice has hard­ened into a tim­bre that sounds eerily like Cat Stevens, his ar­range­ments evoke the para­dox of sound­ing just like him­self, yet un­like any­thing he’s done be­fore. Only the Steely Dan-like strut on “Half Life Cri­sis” feels like some­thing we’re fa­mil­iar with; the rest of the al­bum bobs and weaves, tak­ing un­pre­dictable turns and feint­ing when­ever it hints at a clas­sic-rock com­fort zone. Lyri­cally, the al­bum plays with ideas of be­trayal and mid­dle age in clever ways. On “These Hands,” for ex­am­ple, a gen­tle coun­try song, he muses on how “our hands are not our friends,” while oc­ca­sion­ally let­ting his voice fall back as bou­quets of back­ing vo­cals rise along­side a del­i­cate slide gui­tar. These mo­ments of beauty in­ter­twine with a sar­donic wit and phe­nom­e­nal mu­si­cian­ship through­out. The songs are not sim­ple, but they pro­vide mo­ments of plea­sure that could be de­scribed as such. — Robert Ker

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