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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from GIMBX302
Salle Church, Norfolk, United Kingdom
Produced by Steve C Smith & Peter Phillips
Engineered by Mike Clements & Mike Hatch
Release date: November 2010
Total duration: 47 minutes 6 seconds

Missa Et ecce terrae motus
composer
The Earthquake Mass
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

Other recordings available for download
The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips (conductor)
The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips (conductor)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Brumel’s reputation as a writer of canons would not have been greatly increased by the simple example which underlies the Missa Et ecce terrae motus, for all that the presence of the canon plays an important role in understanding the unusual musical style of the whole. Brumel restricted his quotation of the Easter plainsong antiphon at Lauds, Et ecce terrae motus, to its first seven notes (which set the seven syllables of its title to D-D-B-D-E-D-D), working them in three-part canon between the third bass and the first two tenor parts during some of the Mass’s twelve-part passages. These statements occur in very long notes compared with the surrounding activity and their details may vary slightly from quotation to quotation (for example, which of the three voices begins and what the interval between them may be). By and large, though, the realization of this canonic scaffolding is not rigorous and many of the sections of the mass are free of canon altogether.

However, the influence of these slow-moving notes can be heard throughout the work, whether they are actually there or not, in the solid, slow-changing underlying chords. A casual listener to the Missa Et ecce terrae motus, confused at first by the teeming detail of the rhythmic patterns, may hear only some rather disappointing harmonies. Closer listening will reveal why Brumel chose to write in so many parts: he needed them to decorate his colossal harmonic pillars. In doing so he effectively abandoned polyphony in the sense of independent yet interrelated melodic lines, and resorted to sequences and figurations which were atypical of his time. The effect can even be akin to that of Islamic art: static, non-representational, tirelessly inventive in its use of abstract designs, which are intensified by their repetitive application. This style of writing is so effective that anyone who might be reminded of Tallis’s Spem in alium would be unable to conceive of the need for another twenty-eight parts.

The manuscript source for Brumel’s ‘Earthquake’ Mass (Munich Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Mus.MS1) was copied for a performance in about 1570 at the Bavarian court. The names of the thirty-three court singers are given against the nine lower parts (the boys are not named), amongst whom Lassus sang Tenor II. Unfortunately the last folios, which contain the Agnus Dei, have rotted, leaving holes in the voice-parts. Any editor of the piece is presented with the unusual task of trying to guess where the notes which he can read might fit, as they are placed on the page in individual parts rather than in score; then re-compose what is missing. This was done for Gimell by Francis Knights. A further Agnus Dei, on the Et ecce terrae motus chant and attributed to Brumel, survives in Copenhagen; but it is widely thought not to belong to the twelve-part Mass, since it is for six voices, which use different vocal ranges from those in the twelve-part setting. In addition its musical style differs in various important respects from that of the larger work, not least in quoting many more than the first seven notes of the chant. For these reasons it has been omitted here. The Mass is scored for three sopranos, one true alto, five wide-ranging tenors and three basses. The tessitura of all these parts (except perhaps that of the sopranos) is unpredictable to the point of eccentricity. Countertenor II, for example, has a range of two octaves and a tone, the widest vocal range I have ever met in renaissance music.

from notes by Thomas Phillips © 1992


Other albums featuring this work
'Brumel: Missa Et ecce terrae motus' (CDGIM026)
Brumel: Missa Et ecce terrae motus
'The Tallis Scholars sing Flemish Masters' (CDGIM211)
The Tallis Scholars sing Flemish Masters
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM211  2CDs for the price of 1  
'The Essential Tallis Scholars' (CDGIM201)
The Essential Tallis Scholars
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM201  2CDs for the price of 1  
'Renaissance Radio' (CDGIM212)
Renaissance Radio
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM212  2CDs for the price of 1  

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