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Johannes TINCTORIS (c.1430-1511)
Secret Consolations
Le Miroir de Musique/Baptiste Romain
rec. Scholsskirche Beuggen, Germany, 2016
RICERCAR RIC380 [70.04]

The great Flemish theorist Johannes Tinctoris writing in the 1470’s in his work Liber Imperfectum natarum musicalium regarded the new Franco-Flemish musical art of his day to have originated among the the English school of musicians writing some forty years earlier, men like Dunstaple and Forest. But for all his great reputation as a theorist (and without him much of the way 15th Century music sounded and was written would not be known to us) he “can be considered only of minor rank as a composer. His eleven treatises, though accepting old-established rules, still leave room for the new spirit”. I quote here from The New Oxford History of Music, Volume III and an essay by Naanie Bridgman (revised 1964); she continues disparagingly, “Nor is there any greater sign of inspiration in his four Masses, his cycle of Lamentations, his two motets or his five chansons”. This CD sets out to disprove this statement.

Of these four masses, three are given the nomenclature ‘Sine Nomine’, the Agnus dei from Mass II is added on this CD to the Gloria, Credo and Sanctus from the numbered Mass III.

In fairness, it’s not the first CD to be entirely devoted to this somewhat overlooked figure. Back in 1997 the 4-part Missa L’homme Armé and, usefully for those who don’t like to double up, the Missa Sine Nomine Mass I, both found in a Verona Manuscript, were recorded, for voices only, in their entirety by The Clerks’ Group under Edward Wickham (CYP3608). The performances are very different but in addition this new disc also includes some secular songs and motets as listed below and works by some of Tinctoris’s contemporaries whose songs he sometimes added extra parts to. In his treatises he admits to a firm admiration for Antoine Busnois and the great Ockeghem, who is represented on this disc. And Tinctoris would have known Dufay as they both worked in Cambrai for a while and some of this music seems to have been influenced by that great composer.

On the whole Le Miroir de Musique display a more gentle and contemplative approach than The Clerks, taking their time over some of the more expressive phrases. Edward Wickham takes a more rhythmic even aggressive view, cutting the length of movements considerably. For example the L’homme armé Kyrie is a minute quicker than in this new version.

What makes this new CD so interesting is that some motets are played instrumentally; in other cases instruments accompany the voices. This is especially sensible as there are several untexted arrangements recorded of popular songs of the time like Robert Morton’s Le souvenir including some by Tinctoris. His famous contemporaries like Agricola are also represented. Tinctoris was probably a pupil of Ockeghem and its good that we have the arrangement of the master’s D’ung aultre amer by Tinctoris and by Spinacino for harp.

The booklet essay is by that great expert on the period David Fallows who goes into the details behind the manuscript sources of the individual pieces and these are given also in table form by track number. He makes out a strong but perhaps controversial case that Tinctoris wrote all of his (surviving) music and indeed his treatise just in the decade of the 1470’s.

There are five main singers all of whom have the most clear and well-placed tone quality and balance. I was especially taken with soprano Sabine Lutzenberger. There are four instrumentalists, on viola d’arco, harp, lute, vielle, rebec and there is an additional group of five voices used for the mass movements in which Baptiste Romain, who directs the performances, has decided, appropriately, to contrast the solo voices against a larger group for some sections.

Of the works which seem to stand out the most, do listen if you can to the expressive Vostre regart si tresfort which is a rondeau (“If your pity or your compassion does not save me, then I will be crushed”) here performed wonderfully a capella. Also, with soprano and instruments the lengthy O invida fortuna (“I will weep forever, clothed in dark colours”) described unusually as a Canzona, which, curiously Fallows says next to nothing about.

This will be one of my records of the year I’m sure, and I recommend it, not just because the music is by such a shadowy figure but also because of the performances, which are rich, varied and carefully planned with each piece thought out carefully as to its colours and sensitive qualities. Can I also draw the reader’s attention to the groups lovely disc recorded in 2014 of music by the brothers Arnold and Hugo de Lantins (fl.1420) which I also reviewed with enthusiasm.

All texts are clearly given and well translated.

Gary Higginson
TINCTORIS : Motet- O Virgo miserere mei
TINCTORIS : Helas, le bon tempo qué j’avoie [3.37] Instrumental
TINCTORIS : Canzona- O invida fortuna [8.40]
TINCTORIS : Missa L’homme Armé- Kyrie [5.44]
TINCTORIS: Missa sine nomine 3- Gloria [6.06]
Credo [3.50]
TINCTORIS: Motet - Virgo Dei throno digna [1.51]
Missa sine nomine 3 – Sanctus [7.27]
Missa sine nomine 2 – Agnus dei [4.03]
Robert MORTON (d.1479) arr. TINCTORIs Le Souvenir 1 (instrumental) [1.08]
TINCTORIS: Magnificat extract- Fecit potentiam [1.03]
MORTON/TINCTORIS : Le souvenir 2 (instrumental) [1.12]
MORTON: Le souvenir de vous me tue [3.56]
Johannes OCKEGHEM (d.1497) arr. Francesco SPINACINO (1475-c.1530) Dung autramer [1.38]
TINCTORIS : D’un autre amer – instrumental [1.32]
Alexander AGRICOLA (1445-1506) D’ung aultre amer – instrumental [1.22]
TINCTORIS : Vostre regret si tresfort m’a feru [5.38]
Anon: Ou lit de pleurs, paré de plaintz (rondeau) [7.12]
Hayne van GHIZEGHEM (c.1445-1472) arr. Tinctoris : De tous biens playne [1.11]



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