Johannes OCKEGHEM (c.1410-1497)
Requiem (Missa pro defunctis) [36.17]
Missa Mi-mi [26.13]
Missa prolationum [34.31]
Alma Redemptoris mater [5.45]
(Probably Philippe BASIRON) Salve Regina [5.31]
Intemerate Dei mater [8.15]
Ave Maria [3.36]
Salve Regina [10.22]
The Hilliard Ensemble
rec. September 1984, Temple Church, London (CD1); April 1988, Boxgrove Priory, Chichester. DDD
VIRGIN VERITAS 6284922 [62.46 + 67.47]
This double-disc set from the Virgin Veritas label features the acclaimed Hilliard Ensemble. It’s a starry line-up that includes Michael Chance, Rogers Covey-Crump, Mark Padmore and Michael George. They perform works by fifteenth century master, Johannes Ockeghem. The first disc opens with the Requiem (Missa pro defunctis) - the earliest polyphonic setting of the Catholic Mass for the Dead to have reached us. It also includes the Missa Mi-mi - so-called on account of the falling fifth interval from E to A which features in the bass line at the start of each movement. The second disc features the Missa prolationum and four Marian antiphons. These include a short Salve Regina setting that is now thought not to be by Ockeghem but by the younger composer Philippe Basiron. There’s also a devotional Marian motet.
The music is glorious - inventive, uplifting, inspirational, yet there is relatively little in the performances to hold one’s attention. There’s too little variety of tempo or dynamic; nor is the textural realisation particularly strong. Although the music is beautifully sung - the voices blending gorgeously - a little more imagination, colour and drive would have been desirable in places. As a general rule, much more rhythmic incisiveness is also required throughout, although the closing section of the Sanctus of the Mi-Mi Mass is better in this respect.
The set is well presented, and the booklet notes, although short are nevertheless interesting. Although they contain no biographical information on the Hilliard Ensemble, they give good background information on the composer and point up salient facts about the works performed. That said, notes on the editions used would have been useful, particularly in view of the dates of the recording (1984 and 1988). The case for inclusion of this information is made all the more compelling by subsequent differences in editorial approach and practice and the advances in musicological knowledge that have been made since the 1980s..
The music is glorious - inventive, uplifting, inspirational, yet there is relatively little in the performances to hold one’s attention.