SACRED SONGS OF FRANCE
: VOLUME 1
Elizabeth C. Patterson,cond; Gloriae Dei Cantores
GLORIAE DEI 056 (SACD: 77:10
Text and Translation)
LEONINUS, PEROTINUS, JOSQUIN DES PREZ, LOYSET COMPERE, MOUTON, FÉVIN, CARPENTRAS, PASSERAU, JACHET OF MANTUA, F. DULOT, MANCHICOURT, THOINOT D’ARBEAU, GOUIMEL, DU CAURROY
This is the first volume of a survey of French sacred music in a very generous sampling of mostly 15th- and 16th-century pieces. The largest work on the program is one of Josquin des Prez’s finest motets,
, more extended by several minutes than the version by Manfred Cordes reviewed herewith. The most unusual piece is
by François Dulot. As it happens, the only previous recording of this most obscure composer is an
on a CD directed by David Skinner, not issued here. Dulot is known as choirmaster in Rouen from 1523 to 1531 after directing the choirboys at Amiens Cathedral in 1514, but no vital dates are available. Févin’s
is a rare example of his sacred music. In fact, the only other motets I have are both included on discs titled “Cantica Canticorum,” both containing an assortment of settings from that Old Testament book. As for Févin’s Requiem, which appeared twice in quick succession (
36:1), I was astonished the other day to come across an earlier recording of that work on a Mirasound CD devoted to the Occo Codex, where it is credited to Anthonius Divitis (as Marcel Pérès pointed out). It was recorded and issued in 2006 by a vocal ensemble called Barbers & Bishops, and I bought it in a wonderful old record store in Bruges that apparently has never returned surplus stock to the distributors. It is so far superior to the two recent recordings that I regret failing to file it properly after I bought it. That disc also has a Mass by Jehan Barra dit Hottinet (apparently the composer’s only recording) and some anonymous motets.
Among the other motets on the present disc,
by Carpentras was recorded by the Suspicious Cheese Lords (26:6) in a disc of recorded premieres, but
O vos omnes
of Jachet of Mantua is a work that I can’t find on records. A notable shift in mood occurs when the succession of motets leads to a noël, actually a dance, by Thoinot d’Arbeau. The program begins with two medieval works, but
of Leoninus is played on the organ, while the great organum quadruplum of Perotinus.
, sounds too easy as the choir breezes through. Several versions by vocal ensembles make a more angular rendition, notably a remarkable live performance captured by the Hilliard Ensemble and reissued on Coro (31:1). One of the earliest recordings was choral, not that the Dessoff Choirs can be compared with this version, but the music is essentially solo music with four voices substituting for the solo portions of the chant. Even the sound here of two voices to a part is simply too thick, even as well as this is done. For the rest, as an overview of French Renaissance vocal music, this program is assembled well and beautifully sung. This disc offers a good many unusual selections representing the period. The offbeat selections make it more interesting than a collection of familiar repertoire would be.
J. F. Weber