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CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

The Art of the Netherlands
see end of review for details
The Early Music Consort of London/David Munrow
rec. February and April 1975, Abbey Road Studios, London
VIRGIN VERITAS 6284972 [61:20 + 71:21]

Experience Classicsonline

This is a famous collection that set standards in 1976 and did its bit to bring Netherlands’ music of the second half of the fifteenth and the first quarter of the sixteenth century to more general audition. David Munrow’s adventurous spirit, his discerning judgement, and his charismatic self did much to enrich the living current of such music in Britain and beyond. So too did his collaborators amongst whose ranks were some of the most outstanding talents of the day – a roll-call to be savoured like a favourite sporting side, or a series of vintage wines; James Bowman, Charles Brett, Martyn Hill, Paul Elliott, Rogers Covey-Crump, Maurice Bevan (a Deller alumnus), and Terry Edwards of the sepulchral bass notes. These are just some of the singers. The instrumentalists include Michael Laird, whose cornett playing (double ‘t’ in authentic style) is so apposite, Nigel North, lutenist supreme but then also playing the tenor rebec and bass viol, Robert Spencer, an earlier maestro of the instrument, and a certain C Hogwood, playing organ, regal - and harp!

The music has been reissued on CD before and this selection concentrates on vocal music; the instrumental items are versions of the secular songs on the first disc in a manner popular at the time. Thus we hear an anonymous early sixteenth century version for two lutes of Josquin’s Scaramella va alla Guerra which may have been composed a century earlier.

Indeed Josquin is the star around which other composers tend to satellite in this selection. The rhythmic vitality and the instrumental colour evoked by tambourine, and harp in Scaramella is still as evocative as ever. Equally one can admire the beautifully reserved and ardent eloquence of the performance of van Ghizeghem’s De tous biens plaine, supported by one tenor and two bass rebecs. The three part instrumental version of this – the first of the two - possibly by Alexander Agricola, van Ghizeghem’s exact contemporary, is tangy and delightful. The second version features Munrow’s treble recorder. The longest setting in the first disc is Brumel’s Du tout plongiet which is beautifully modulated and genuinely expressive in its contours and the interplay of tenor, baritone and two bass viols. That such compression of forces should produce such extraordinary music is one of the wonders of a set such as this. But this first disc certainly entertains the more bucolic aspects of the muse; listen to Terry Edwards’s sepulchral bass in Mijn morken gaf mij een jonck wijff, a quodlibet of striking personality, interpreted with equally striking vigour.

The second disc focuses on movements by various composers cleverly shaped into a ‘mass’. Tinctoris, Brumel, Josquin, Pierre de la Rue and Isaac are the quintet from whose mass movements a new one is artfully constructed. Throughout, the measured nobility and grace is palpable, the depth of the singing still hugely evocative. The Marian motets – they’re mostly Marian – offer equal pleasures. There’s a remarkable setting of Benedicta es caelorum regina in which Josquin’s ascending and descending lines almost anticipate Victoria’s Italo-Iberian expressivity. And one should on no account overlook the exquisitely beautiful setting Ockeghem setting of Intemerata Dei mater.

The purely instrumental performances – crumhorns and all – are not here, but they are available on previous re-releases. I think that’s about 20-25 minutes’ worth. If you prefer to concentrate on the Art as enshrined in this essentially vocal set then you will find a wealth of detail and committed performances. They have lasted for 35 years; and will probably last a good lot longer yet. Brief notes; no texts.

Jonathan Woolf

Track listing
CD 1
Secular Songs
Josquin DESPREZ (c.1450/55-1521)
Scaramella va alla guerra (villotta) [2:07]
Allegez moy, doulce plaisant brunette - I - Original six-part chanson [2:06]
Allegez moy, doulce plaisant brunette II - Lute duet version (Anon early 16th Century) [2:10]
El grillo e buon cantore (frottola) [1:42]
Heinrich ISAAC (c.1450-1517)
Donna di dentro della tua casa (quodlibet) [1:35]
Hayne van GHIZEGHEM (c.1445-1476/97)
De tous beins plaine (rondeau) - I - Original three-part chanson [6:45]
De tous biens plaine (rondeau) - II - Four part instrumental version (Josquin) with canon a 2 [1:39]
De tous biens plaine (rondeau) - III - Three-part instrumental version I (Alexander Agricola? 1446 - 1506) [1:15]
De tous biens plaine (rondeau) - IV - Three-part instrumental version II (Agricola) [1:22]
Antoine BRUMEL (c.1460-?1512/13)
De tous biens plaine (rondeau) - Du tout plongiet - Fors seulemnet I'attente (after Johannes Ockeghem) (rondeau) [10:28]
ANON (c.1500)
Mijn morken gaf mij een jonck wijff (quodlibet) [1:38]
Johannes GHISELIN (VERBONNET) (fl.1491-1507)
Ghy syt die werste boven al [2:05]
Jacques BARBIREAU (1455-1491) or Isaac or Jacob OBRECHT (1457/8-1505)
Ein Frohlich wesen - Original three-part chanson [2:33]
Ein Frohlich wesen - Keyboard solo version (ascr. Paul Hofhaimer 1459 - 1537) [1:36]
Ein Frohlich wesen - III - Four-part chanson (Obrecht) [3:38]
Johannes OCKEGHEM (c.1410-1497)
Prenez sur moi vostre exemple amoureux (canon a 3) [1:54]
Ma bouche rit (virelai) [5:47]
ANON (Formerly attributed Josquin)
Guillaume se va chaufer [1:03]
Adieu mes amours - I - Original four-part chanson from Petrucci's "Harmonice musices odhecaton A" (Venice, 1501) [2:04]
Adieu mes amours - II - Keyboard solo version (Anon 16th Century) [2:16]
Antoine BUSNOIS (c.1430-1492)
Fortuna desperata - I - Original three-part chanson [1:38]
Fortuna desperata - II - Six-part version (Agricola) [1:49]
Fortuna desperata - III - Three-part instrumental version [1:13]

CD 2
Mass Movements
Johannes TINCTORIS (c.1435-1511)
Missa sine nomine – Kyrie [4:31]
Antoine BRUMEL
Missa 'Et ecce terrae motus' – Gloria [7:59]
Missa 'Et ecce terrae motus' - Credo super 'De tous biens' [6:33]
Pierre de la RUE (c.1452-1518)
Missa 'Ave sanctissima Maria' – Sanctus [4:13]
Heinrich ISAAC
Missa 'La bassadanza' - Agnus Dei [4:32]
Haec Deum caeli [1:29]
Loyset COMPÈRE (c.1445-15180 or Juan de ANCHIETA (1462-1523) or Francisco de PEÑALOSA (c.1470-1528)
O bone Jesu [3:11]
De profundis a 5 [5:00]
Benedicta es caelorum regina [5:35]
Jean MOUTON (c.1459-1522)
Nesciens mater virgo virum [4:15]
ANON (Formerly attributed Josquin)
Inviolata integra et casta es Maria [3:23]
Intemerata Dei mater [7:49]
Laudemus nunc Dominum [7:59]
Pierre de la RUE or Philippe VERDELOT (c1480/85-1530/32)
Missa 'La bassadanza' - Ave sanctissima Maria [3:57]



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