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Loyset COMPÈRE (c.1445-1518)
Missa Galeazescha - Music for the Duke of Milan
Odhecaton/Paolo da Col
La Pfarescha, La Reverdie, Ensemble Pian&Forte
rec. 2005, St. Peter, Belluno; Basilica of San Petronio, Bologna
ARCANA A436 [65.12]

The first thing to understand that the Missa Galeazescha is not a mass as you might know it, it is a set of motets in honour of the Virgin written to replace the movements of the mass ordinary. So for example the motet ‘Ave Sponsa Verbi summi’ is given “instead of the Offertory”. In addition we are offered four motets by the rather shadowy Gaspar van Weerbeke also from a cycle of settings of texts to the Virgin. His style is quite different from Compère and his motet ‘Mater digna Dei’ is one of the most beautiful pieces on the CD.

Odhecaton is a group of twelve male voices and their sound is opulent and yet almost abrasive at times. But a large group of musicians have been called in to present this unique set of works. You will see below that the sacred works have been split sometimes by instrumental ones, wind pieces and organ music. Liuewe Tamminga plays four pieces on a fifteenth century organ at a church in Bologna, at its best I feel in Weerbeke’s Virgo Maria. The seven members of the Ensemble Pian&Forte, open and close the CD playing sonatas (really fanfares) by one Heinrich Lübeck, they consist entirely of trumpets with a timpanist. La Pfarescha is a four strong group playing two shawms and two trombones and La Reverdie are a mixed group of five mainly string players but with Doron D. Sherwin playing cornetto. These two latter groups accompany the voices (an idea not always to everyone’s taste) most of the time creating generally an amazingly consistent and sumptuous blend.

Duke Galaezzo Maria Sforza was murdered in the church of Santo Stefano, Milan, on December 26th 1476. He was a notoriously cruel and harsh leader, but he did spend an inordinate amount of money on music recruiting the very best of singers in Milan and the surrounding area but he chose Loyset Compère from northern France, also known for his secular pieces and Gaspar van Weerbeke from Belgium to be his court and chapel composers. In addition Alexander Agricola was a singer for about three years in the Duke’s chapel. The Duke was attempting to replicate the very highest standards found in other court chapels and cathedrals of Europe.

These motets by Compère, which the Duke is likely to have commissioned, operate on several levels; I will touch on this only briefly here but it’s worth knowing a little as it demonstrates that this is a composer, so little known and overshadowed by figures like Josquin, worthy of greater investigation. The texts tend to be divided into groups of four lines with often, four lots of four lines in each. The second and fourth groups are often set in triple time, always adding a happy variety. Also, to quote an excellent booklet essay by Daniele V. Filippi entitled ‘A Precious Patchwork for the Duke’, the tenor lines sometimes have a “collage of pre-existing melodies, taken from sequences and other songs” He lists a few but adds that “others have not yet been identified”. On several occasions I feel I could hear the ‘L’homme Armé’ melody so popular for mass settings at that time and fragments of the ‘Ave Maris Stella’ plainchant.

One wonders why the recording dates from 2005 but has had to wait until this autumn (2017) to be released, surely Arcana can’t have been waiting for Compère’s 500th anniversary next year! All very irritating for the performers I should think.

The recordings made in San Petronio of the organ and the brass pieces have a wondrously ringing acoustic. This is a magnificent church, which I saw only recently, in the centre of the city. In the other venue in Belluno the voices feel a little too close and the instruments rather recessed but it does have a sense of space and depth.

As well as the essay mentioned above, there is another, equally fascinating, by Agnese Pavanello entitled ‘Sforza Polyphony between the Court and Duomo’. Compere’s music is still little known so if this period is favoured by you then I advise that you snap up this CD without much further thought. All texts are given and well translated.

Gary Higginson

Heinrich LÜBECK (c.1500)
1. Sonata No. 100 [2:07]
Gaspar van Weerbeke (c.1445-1516)
2. Virgo Maria [2:28]
3. Ave, stella matutina [2:27]
Alexander AGRICOLA (c.1445-1506)
4. Ave Domina sancta Maria [4:09]
5.Missa Galeazescha: Loco Introitus. Ave, Virgo gloriosa [3:08]
6. Missa Galeazescha: Loco Gloria. Ave, salus infirmorum [3:15]
Johannes MARTINI (c.1440-1498)
7. Toujours bien [1:17]
8. Missa Galeazescha: Loco Credo. Ave, decus virginale [3:08]
Johannes MARTINI:
9. La Martinella [3:07]
10. Missa Galeazescha: Loco Offertorii. Ave, sponsa verbi summi [3:30]
Alexander AGRICOLA:
11. Tota pulchra es [2:25]
12. Missa Galeazescha: Loco Sanctus. O Maria [3:18]
13. Missa Galeazescha: Ad elevationem. Adoramus te, Christe [4:29]
Alexander AGRICOLA:
14. L’homme banni [02:04]
15. Missa Galeazescha: Loco Agnus. Salve, mater salvatoris [2:53]
Gaspar van Weerbeke:
16. Christi mater, ave [2:32]
Alexander AGRICOLA:
17. Ave, pulcherrima Regina [2:44]
18. Missa Galeazescha: Loco Deo gratias. Virginis Mariae laudes04:00
19. Ave Maria gratia plena [5:14]
Heinrich LÜBECK:
20. Etzliche Punctenn aus einer Sonade [1:35]
Gaspar van Weerbeke:
21. Mater digna Dei [3:39]
Heinrich LÜBECK:
22. Sonata No. 6 [1:44]



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