John DUNSTABLE (c.1390-1453)
Descendi in ortum meum
Ave maris stella
Gloria in canon
Speciosa facta es
Sub tuam protectionem
Veni sancte spiritus
Albanus roseo rutilat
O crux glriosa
Salve regina mater nire
Missa Rex seculorum
Rec East Woodhay Church, Berkshire, 6-7 Feb 1995
METRONOME MET CD 1009 [74.02]
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For once, the extravagant claims of a CD booklet are not hyperbole. The point in the (excellent) sleeve notes that Dunstable was the most influential British composer before the Beatles rather exaggerates the importance of John, Paul, George and Ringo. For Dunstable (spelt "Dunstaple" throughout the notes, written by people who know a lot more than I do) had such a reputation in European music, lasting for centuries, that eminent scholar David Fallows has declared him the most successful English composer ever. Chief amongst his achievements was the lush sonority of his sacred music that so influenced Dufay, and by extension the whole of European Mass writing.
Happily it is easy to see in this disc a justification of his reputation, in the works that are rare, even by Dunstaple’s standards. The performances, one singer to each part, are fantastic: committed, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. They are not always completely euphonious, but the utmost care is taken to balance the parts under the counter-tenor of Robert Harre Jones and the amazing metrical effects Dunstaple aimed for are executed magnificently. I also marvelled at the care Dunstaple goes to in allowing the sonic effects of the words, as opposed solely to their meaning, to determine the structures of the works.
This is also a very scholarly disc, with copious documentation about Dunstaple’s life and music, meticulous in every fact, and meticulous in attributing works. For example, Dunstaple’s authorship of the Missa Rex seculorum that forms the mainstay of this disc is not completely certain. Who cares when the invention is as glorious as this, and the music so beautiful.
This is an excellent record that can be heartily recommended to Dunstaple aficionados and ignorami alike.
in ortum meum
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