Messes de Barcelone et d’Apt
Sacred Vocal Music from the Fourteenth Century
Messe de Barcelone
Details after review.
Ensemble Gilles Binchois/Dominique Vellard
rec. Basilique Sainte-Madeleine de Vézelay, 26-30 September 2018. DDD.
Texts and translations included.
EVIDENCE CLASSICS EVCD060
Ensemble Gilles Binchois and Dominique Vellard here repeat the successes of
their earlier recordings. If you don’t yet know Guillaume de Machaut’s Messe de nostre Dame, usually regarded as the first Mass setting
planned as a complete cycle, their recording of several years ago remains
my benchmark and it’s available as a real bargain from Brilliant Classics
in a 3-CD package of Machaut’s music, sacred and secular, and poetry, for
around £10.50 – around the same price as a download, though almost three
times as much from some dealers (94217). Andreas Scholl and Gerd Türk, then
early in their careers, are no longer part of the line-up but the standard
remains high and the distinctive style of the Ensemble is still
The music on the new recording comes from manuscripts associated with the
papal court at Avignon and the royal court of Catalonia. Only two of the
composers are known, Machaut’s contemporary Philippe de Vitry, and the
later and less well-known Johannes Tapissier. Though neither of these
Masses seems to have been composed as a complete cycle, those who love
Vellard’s recording of the Machaut will find themselves at home with the
Those who favour the earthier style of singing the music of this period
should look elsewhere – there must be some who do, because the recent
Harmonia Mundi reissue of the Machaut from Marcel Pérès and his Ensemble
Organum, which I disliked, received a five-star accolade from BBC Music
Magazine (HMO8901590 –
Autumn 2018/3). I have, of course, no firm evidence at all to
support a preference for the smoother style of Ensemble Gilles Binchois, or
Gothic Voices to name another group whom I favour in the music of this
period; there's just no contest in my book.
I also liked Vellard’s earlier recording of the music of Heinrich Isaac,
the 6-part Missa Virgo prudentissima, though there is also a fine
recording of that from Christophorus which I thought displayed
complementary virtues (EVCD023 –
DL News 2016/6). That’s no longer available from emusic.com, which has suffered a sad
decline in the last year or so and is no longer worth subscribing to for
classical music or jazz. The Isaac CD is currently out of stock from some
dealers, but it can be downloaded in lossless sound for around £10, as can
another enjoyable Vellard recording Fons Luminis – Sacred Music from Codex las Huelgas, c.1330 (EVCD051 –
as can the new release. Some dealers seem to have Fons Luminis on CD
only, others as a download only.
None of the music on the new recording is of the same high standard as that
of Machaut or Isaac; I’d recommend Vellard’s recordings of both first, but
having heard either you are likely to want to add in fairly short order this
recording of the Masses of Barcelona and Apt.
As on the earlier releases, Evidence Classics offer a convincing recorded
sound and the notes in the booklet are helpful and informative, together
with photographs of the instruments employed in the interludes, two vièles à archet (bowed vielles) and a guiterne (gittern).
The booklet doesn’t explain what is meant by a ‘Gloria avec trope’,
‘Sanctus avec trope’ or ‘Kyrie avec trope’. Before the
liturgical reforms of the sixteenth century, it was common for these three
sections of the Mass to be ‘troped’ with extra words, longer than the
original in the case of the opening Kyries, expanding the attributes
of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are several examples of this in
the most common usage in England, the Sarum Missal, and these were
sometimes included in musical settings. Something similar happened in the
English Prayer Book in 1552 when the nine-fold Kyries were expanded
into responses to the Ten Commandments and in Lutheran usage where
Christmas additions were made to the Vespers canticle the Magnificat, hence the existence of two settings of this by Bach, one with and one
without additions. The Sanctus of the Mass of Barcelona is the most
extreme example here, expanded many times beyond its original scope; all
the additions to the text are distinguished in the booklet by being placed
The Ensemble Gilles Binchois has been delighting us with recordings of
medieval and renaissance music for some considerable time; that Machaut
Mass was recorded in 1990. Many of their earlier recordings for Virgin
Classics remain available from Erato, often as super-budget twofers. Sadly,
however, some of these can now be obtained only as very expensive downloads
at around £30.
Several of these Virgin releases have been mined for a recent Warner
Classics 2-CD set at budget price The Da Vinci Sound, where they are
joined by the likes of David Munrow’s Early Music Consort (9029550696).
That’s a bit of an opportunistic piece of marketing when there is
new-minted material to be had, such as Coro’s Leonardo: Shaping the Invisible (COR16171 –
review), but it is well worth investigating.
Better still, however, are the Ensemble’s original albums on the one hand
and their three recent Evidence recordings on the other. Of the three this
may be my lowest priority, but that’s due to the appeal of its predecessors
rather than any shortcomings.
new release joins the earlier recordings from the Binchois Ensemble high in my esteem.
Messe de Barcelone
Troped Gloria [7:19]
Troped Sanctus [4:32]
(Madrid-BN, ms. 1361) [1:43]
4-part Agnus Dei (Barcelone-Bbc, MS971) [3:26]
Deus tuorum militum, 3-part hymn and plainchant (Apt-trésor MS16bis) [4:17]
/ Quid scire, instrumental (Apt-trésor MS16bis) [1:46]
Christe redemptor omnium, hymn with alternating plainchant (Apt-trésor MS16bis) [3’27]
Philippe de VITRY (1291-1361)
/ Bona condit, instrumental (Apt-trésor MS16bis) [2’39]
Troped Kyrie [7:07]
Johannes TAPISSIER (c.1370-1410)
/ O Maria, instrumental [2:11]
Juste judex, hymn (Madrid-BN, ms. 1361) [1:21]
Ave maris stella, Marian hymn (Apt-trésor MS16bis) [2:37]