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Reviews: Pierre de La Rue; Josquin des Prez. Masses

The MHS Review 410, VOL. 12, NO.14• 1988

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David W. Moore, American Record Guide (September/October 1988)


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La Rue: Missa pro defunctis; Josquin: Missa "Hercules Dux Ferrariae"; La deploration deJohannes Ockeghem/Nymphes des bois (Requiem). New London Chamber Choir; James Wood, Conductor.

There is one other recording of the Re­quiem in the catalog, by Ruhland and the Munich Capella Antiqua. The pre­sent issue is unaccompanied, but warm and well-balanced. The music is, of course, that lovely, resonantly modal progression of chordal and contrapuntal meditation that we expect from the 15th century. Both the Requiem and the Mass were written around 1500.

La Rue builds his Requiem around the plainchants used for the Mass for the Dead .... [lt] is written in conformity to the pitch levels of the original plain­chants, which were in various different modes. This performance equalizes the pitch, putting the entire work into a uniform voice range. John Milsom, whose arrangement this is, feels that this transposition is authentic, that the original performers would have automatically done it this way, though many performances have chosen to do the work as written.

The Josquin Mass is another beauty, historically important as possibly the earliest Mass to be based on an original motto theme, rather than an existing plainchant, popular song, etc. The mot­to is a transliteration of the dedicatee's name, and every movement is built around this tune. Josquin's style is more contrapuntal than that of La Rue, his im­agination more restless and unexpected. He has been called the Beethoven of his era. The Deploration is based on the plainchant for the Requiem Introit and is built like a motet, a six-minute memorial to perhaps the greatest com­poser of the previous generation.

The choir consists of 18 voices, men and women, well-balanced, recorded in a mellow, resonant ambience pleasant to hear.

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