In an age when the Council of Trent had strictly forbidden the use of any sensual or even vaguely erotic material as the basis of sacred music, Orlando Lassus (c.1532 - 1594) always managed to find a way to subvert the prudish authoritarianism of the church leadership. He continued to often blatently use sensous chansons as the basis for his sacred works and the Missa Surge Propera recorded here is no exception. The original words are 'rise up, make haste my love, and come... show me your face...for your voice is sweet and your face is comely'. Surely this would have been enough to stir up the wrath of the Council of Trent had they known.
Whatever the case Lassus' music has a directly sensuous appeal in a way rivalled by few Renaissance composers. The trouble is that the number of groups willing to explore this aspect of this composer seem few and far between. Most try to make the music sound as pious and prim as possible, as though to avoid these undercurrents. So it comes as a refreshing surprise to find works such as the Mass here along with Surge Propera and Osculeteur Me (the opening words are 'let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth' - used as the basis of another mass!) being allow to display their full sensuality as they are here. The results are tasteful, refined and sensually poetic. All this is more than a little due to the lovely sensual sonorities of the Cardinalls Musick under Andrew Carwood, whose sopranos are particularly good.
The only quibble I have is with the recorded sound which is a little on the dry and boxy side. However there is admirable clarity and the the balance between voices is good.