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Hyperion Records

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Christmas Mass in the ducal chapel (Sainte-Chapelle), Chambéry (Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, fol. 158r) by Jean Colombe (c1430/35-c1493)
Musée Condé, Chantilly, France / Giraudon / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67715
Recording details: February 2008
Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: January 2009
Total duration: 3 minutes 31 seconds

'Se la face ay pale remains Dufay's most approchable mass … this is easy, effortless musicianship  … the balance is superb, and all lines are presented in a free and supple manner that projects the music very well' (Gramophone)

'Dufay was one of the greatest composers of the 15th century … half a dozen recordings of Dufay's Missa Se la face are available but Kirkman's sweeps the board … performances of great clarity, pliancy and historical value … a confirming display of excellence and insight' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Dufay's Missa Se la face ay pale provides the backbone for this gloriously performed disc from the eight male voices of the pure-toned Binchois Consort. Contrasting motets and mass propers, works of sublime clarity, are rewardingly interspersed … the results are mesmerising' (The Observer)

'The singers more than adequately realise their stated aim of bringing the opulent Court of Savoy to life … the singing on the CD is mellifluous and animated, the pronunciation authentic … and both the liturgical context and the confidence of the performance make this a valuable addition to our understanding of Dufay's output' (Early Music Review)

'This ensemble has now recorded five masses credited to Dufay, an achievement of considerable stature … as well as giving a fine rendition of the music, Kirkman's Dufay disc also adds relevant music to broaden our understanding of the period' (Fanfare, USA)

O très piteulx
to mark the May 1453 fall of Constantinople; Lamentatio sancte Matris ecclesie constantinopolitane
author of text
text from Naples

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The four-voice O très piteulx, with its French text (according to Dufay’s own testimony, sourced from Naples) expresses all the pathos of this historical moment—the fall of Constantinople—with great plangency and intensity. It is gravely measured and has a gentle inevitability of motion, somehow managing to be sober and austere yet also consoling at the same time. Its tenor carries a text-fragment from Jeremiah, with the two phrases neatly transposed (seemingly to emphasize the political point of the abandonment of Byzantium by the West, as well as by God himself) and set to a paraphrase of the famed ‘Lamentation tone’ for Holy Week. This chant gives the F mode for the composition, and is sung through once in each half in a slightly different guise (the cantus also alludes to it in the free duos which stand at the beginning of each section). The piece as a whole is melodically concise, and thus relatively compact in its phrases and dimensions. Yet, as so often in Dufay, the structural and expressive effect is much larger than its length alone might imply, so perfectly calculated is the balance between the individual melodic gestures, the beautifully controlled ambit of the tenor, and the rhythmic placement of the (modally varied) cadences.

from notes by Philip Weller © 2009

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