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Hyperion Records

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The Annunciation. Panel from an altarpiece (1478/85) by Lorenzo di Credi (1459-1537)
Louvre, Paris / Peter Willi / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67761
Recording details: September 2009
The Chapel of Harcourt Hill campus, Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Summerly
Engineered by Justin Lowe
Release date: May 2010
Total duration: 25 minutes 12 seconds

'The Brabant Ensemble happily bring their familiar virtues to bear in sensitive, transparent performances. Musical adventurers will want this recording to discover a superb composer they may not know … Moulu's idiom is pleasingly inventive and immediately engaging' (Gramophone)

'An outstandingly beautiful setting for five voices [In pace], built around a canon. This is a real discovery, and I can imagine it inspiring many choir directors to include it in their repertoires. The Brabant Ensemble's vibrant sound is ideal for this music. Rice is careful never to allow the upper voices to dominate, with the result that the polyphonic workings of all these pieces are clearly audible, something rather rarer than one might think. This is a highly impressive release' (International Record Review)

'The Brabant Ensemble are an eleven-voiced choir, using female altos and sopranos. They sing with a lovely clear, focused tone which allows the polyphony space to flourish and each line is clearly delineated. They sing the Latin with a form of French pronunciation which is entirely suitable for this composer. Moulu is not a showy writer. Stephen Rice and his ensemble allow the composer's distinctive reflective voice to come over in these fascinating and rather enchanting pieces' (MusicWeb International)

'Revel in the bare intervals at the start of the Mater floreat which become a glowing major chord as the inner parts enter. Or the exquisite solemnity of the shorter In Pace. We are also treated to a brief Josquin motet which Moulu used as the model for his own Missa Missus est Gabriel Angelas. All sung with astonishing confidence and beauty of tone by Stephen Rice’s Brabant Ensemble' (TheArtsDesk.com)

Missa Missus est Gabriel angelus
composer
4vv; Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Mus. MS F; Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Capp. Sist. 55; Cambrai, Mediathèque municipale, MS 4
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

Kyrie  [4'06] GreekEnglish
Gloria  [5'08] LatinEnglish
Credo  [5'34] LatinEnglish

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Missa Missus est Gabriel angelus perhaps represents Moulu’s finest achievement in terms of purely musical expression. Pierre de Ronsard in the introduction to his Livre de mellanges of 1560 described Moulu as a disciple of Josquin (he was numbered alongside eight others, Ronsard’s selection of names exhibiting a notable bias to musicians active in the region of Paris). If a connection between Moulu and Josquin—for which there is no documentary evidence—did exist, this Mass-setting based on a short motet by the older composer would seem to represent the closest approach between their respective styles. Josquin’s motet is characteristic of his four-voice writing in maintaining a sparse texture with the voices imitating strongly memorable phrases. The characteristic rising leap of a fifth at the beginning of the piece exemplifies this trait of Josquin: frequently the voices work in pairs, as at ‘nuntians ei verbum’. Appropriation of plainsong melodies is common in Josquin’s music, as is true of many Renaissance composers: in Missus est Gabriel this is most clearly seen at the words ‘Ave Maria’, where the famous chant is strikingly introduced in the bass, the other voices following at a distance of two breves, all on the same pitch. Finally the closing ‘Alleluia’ is set to an evocative ‘fauxbourdon’ texture—a succession of first inversion chords that frequently was associated with sweetness in early sixteenth-century music.

Moulu’s parody adopts many of the standard techniques for deriving Masses from motets, notably retention of the most arresting moments from the model. For instance, four of the five movements open with the rising fifth motif from the beginning of the motet, the exception being the Credo, which is headed with a homophonic passage—however, the rising fifth is retained in the bass part underpinning the harmony. Similarly, the fauxbourdon texture from the motet returns at the end of the Kyrie and Sanctus movements, where its falling lines create an effectively ruminative close for these supplicatory texts. The section of Josquin’s piece that would have been most immediately recognizable to his and Moulu’s contemporaries is the quotation of the ‘Ave Maria’ chant: this is retained by Moulu but its surprising introduction by the bassus is not: the most obvious statement of the chant is made by the tenor in the ‘Hosanna’ section, the bass harmonizing it in long notes while the soprano and alto exchange a newly composed melody above.

A final characteristic of Josquin that Moulu adopts and extends is strategic repetition. Josquin is known for repeating the same short motif several times in succession (a famous example occurs in the Kyrie of his Pange lingua Mass), and Moulu takes this to almost obsessive levels at times. In the ‘Pleni’ of Missa Missus est Gabriel, which is for the two upper voices only, the same four-note motif occurs no fewer than five times in succession in the soprano, and at the end of this section the alto has four statements of the same melodic fragment. I interpret the musical gesture of the soprano statement as intensifying a drive towards the cadence that is frequently found in early Renaissance music; additionally the ‘Pleni’ exemplifies the concept of varietas, much prized in theoretical treatises of the time, in that while one voice repeats, the other is continuously fashioning new counterpoints against it, working the melodic material to its utmost. The Mass-setting as a whole exhibits an austere beauty that recalls its distinguished model without slavishly aping it.

from notes by Stephen Rice © 2010

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