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Hyperion Records

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Job mocked by his wife by Georges de la Tour (1593-1652)
Musée départemental des Vosges, Épinal, France / Lauros / Giraudon / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67696
Recording details: August 2008
The Chapel of Harcourt Hill campus, Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Summerly
Engineered by Justin Lowe
Release date: August 2009
Total duration: 7 minutes 50 seconds

'There are many laurels to award in this column, but arguably the biggest, shiniest and bushiest wreath should land on Stephen Rice and his spirited Brabant Ensemble for their outstanding disc of works by Dominique Phinot. What a discovery! Extraordinary music, not least the 'secret chromatic art' exemplified in the motet Pater Peccavi, which deserves the widest hearing thanks to these sinuous, assured performance, captured in an edgy acoustic that enhances the curious architecture of the polyphony' (Choir & Organ)

'The Brabant Ensemble's performances of these fascinating works are as polished and assured as we have come to expect, full-throated yet finely modelled and shimmering with lively intelligence. Rice unerringly finds the right pace for each work … and pays full heed to Phinot's expressive use of contrasting textures. Amidst all the drama of the larger works, the ensemble's caressing, translucent rendition of O sacrum convivium is a particular high point. This is a valuable and engrossing premiere for a neglected and somewhat unconventional sixteenth-century master' (International Record Review)

'Rice has outdone his achievement of the first five discs with this fascinating and rewarding offering. If you have not discovered the Brabant Ensemble yet, by all means start here' (Fanfare, USA)

'If you are to make an investment into a new or unknown composer you need to be able to trust the performers. With the Brabant Ensemble and the musicianship and prowess of Stephen Rice you know that you are in safe hands … awards. They have a gloriously fresh, yet intensely expressive sound, intonation is miraculous and they are aided on each occasion by a superb acoustic and recording' (MusicWeb International)

Pater peccavi
composer
5vv; Primus liber cum quinque vocibus. Motetti del frutto (Venice: Gardano, 1538). 1538/4
author of text
Luke 15: 18, 17

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
One of the most controversial theories surrounding the performance of Renaissance polyphony is that of the so-called ‘secret chromatic art’. First proposed by the scholar Edward Lowinsky (1908–1985) in relation to motets by Jacob Clemens non Papa, it holds that certain pieces could be performed with the addition of numerous accidental flats, sometimes leading to the entire piece ending a semitone lower than it began through a process of transposition. Lowinsky hypothesized that this related to crypto-Protestant significance in the music: Clemens’s mysterious nickname ‘non Papa’ would in this case indicate anti-Papal leanings—though more recent research suggests that Clemens was so called for much more prosaic reasons to do with his debauched lifestyle. Whatever the background to this phenomenon, it is certainly the case that in several pieces of this period, if the rules of musica ficta are followed as most likely would have happened in performance from separate partbooks, one flat after another appears in the music and leads to a downward spiral. One such example is Phinot’s Pater peccavi, a motet based on the story of the prodigal son.

The first half of the motet proceeds in a contrapuntally unproblematic way; only when the son begins to describe his miserable circumstances (‘hic fame pereo’) does the modulation begin, achieving the entire shift in an extraordinary passage a little over half a minute long (3'45" to 4'20"). Having so to speak ‘found his feet’ in the new tonality the son resolves to go back to his father to beg forgiveness (‘Surgam et ibo’), but the pain of his humiliation is underlined by the highly expressive downward sequence of suspensions (‘et dicam ei’) before the plea ‘Make me as one of your servants’ (‘Fac me sicut unum ex mercenariis tuis’) returns in a mood of resignation. Such a direct narrative explanation may seem out of place for a motet published as early as 1538; yet the remarkable effect both of the ‘secret chromatic’ spiral and the later suspension passage suggests just such an interpretation despite the early date.

from notes by Roger Jacob & Stephen Rice © 2009

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