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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67604
Recording details: September 2005
Merton College Chapel, Oxford, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Summerly
Engineered by Justin Lowe
Release date: April 2007
Total duration: 31 minutes 30 seconds

'A must-have disc from the Brabant Ensemble … first-rate music stirs this young ensemble to their finest disc yet' (Gramophone)

'This well-selected collection places Manchicourt firmly on the musical map. The centrepiece of the recording, the Cuidez vous mass, is an inspired choice. From the clamorous lines of the opening Kyrie with their spicy harmonic clashes, through the superbly portrayed dramas of the Credo, and into the quieter realms of the Sanctus and Agnus Dei, this choir is never less than energised and sure-footed … moving and compelling' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The brilliant Easter exultation of Regina caeli is created by Manchicourt's ingenious combination of intricate canonic writing with exciting syncopated rhythms … the Brabant Ensemble's committed and responsive performances' (The Daily Telegraph)

'I was amazed … there is really excellent music here' (Early Music Review)

'Though only a few recordings of Manchicourt's music have appeared over the past decade or so, this one is a significant addition … for its contrasting interpretive aesthetic' (American Record Guide)

'From the ecstatic opening bars of the Regina caeli, which begins the recital, to the more austere grandeur of Manchicourt’s only setting of the Magnificat, with which it closes, there is not a less than thrilling moment on the whole disc. Non-experts will scarcely be aware of the hyper-refined contrapuntal techniques, daring use of dissonance and cross-relations, interspersed with passages of telling homophony; they will simply be swept along by the sheer aural brilliance of Manchicourt’s polyphony. With only two previous recordings to its name, The Brabant Ensemble has already established itself as perhaps England’s most accomplished interpreter of Renaissance sacred music. Its intelligent phrasing, purity of vocal production and well-judged use of pause and inflexion are simply astonishing. Its vivid presentation of Manchicourt’s shimmering, flamboyant polyphony is as moving as it is intellectually stimulating' (International Record Review)

'The music is typical of the high Renaissance, influenced by Josquin and close to the style of Gombert; the Brabant performances all have a wonderful fluency and rhythmic clarity' (The Guardian)

'The more I hear of Manchicourt's music the more impressed I am … the Brabant Ensemble here sports a confidence and sureness of purpose which is indispensable in music as meaty and ambitious as this' (Goldberg)

'Stephen Rice's superbly talented vocal ensemble features many members of the same family, and there's a great harmony, in all senses, about its work. Here, the Brabant does the 16th-century composer Manchicourt proud' (FirstPost.com)

'Recorded at Merton College, Oxford by eager, fresh young voices, singing full throatedly with a forward impetus, it has made for delightful listening. Recommended strongly' (MusicalPointers.co.uk)

Missa Cuidez vous que Dieu nous faille
composer
5/6vv; after Richafort's motet
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

Kyrie  [4'07] GreekEnglish
Gloria  [5'47] LatinEnglish
Credo  [9'51] LatinEnglish

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Like the great majority of Mass settings written in the mid-sixteenth century, Manchicourt’s Missa Cuidez vous que Dieu nous faille is based on a pre-existent polyphonic work, in this case a chanson by Jean Richafort (c1480–after 1547). The chanson, itself thought to be a reworking of a monophonic song, is written for five voices with doubled soprano line, and this scoring is preserved in Manchicourt’s Mass setting. Richafort, as is customary for his generation, writes in a fairly loose contrapuntal style, with long melismatic phrases, and frequent reductions of texture. A feature of this chanson is the closeness of the imitative entries: not only the two equal soprano parts but also the three other voices at the lower octave often come in one after another at the same pitch, giving the effect of instantaneous confirmation of the poetic sentiment. The poem emphasizes God’s goodness to his people, and consequently the chanson is an appropriate vehicle for transformation into sacred music, in a way that many others decidedly were not.

Manchicourt adopts the melodic outline of the chanson’s opening at the beginning of the first three Mass movements, introducing a new counter-melody against this theme in the Sanctus and Agnus Dei. However, he suppresses the rapid repeated notes of the chanson, retaining instead the unusual melodic shape, which after an initial rising fifth emphasizes the flattened seventh scale degree. This distinctive melodic gesture becomes the principal leitmotif of the Mass setting, though other sections of the chanson are also used, the second Kyrie for instance being based on the phrase ‘Jusqu’au jour de jugement’.

Most composers of Mass settings at this time were in the habit of sectionalizing the longer movements, and Manchicourt adheres to this practice, dividing the Gloria into two after the words ‘Filius Patris’. Both sections retain the full five-voice scoring, however, as had the ‘Christe’: reduced textures are reserved for later movements. Instead Manchicourt varies the texture by introducing an almost static chordal section at ‘suscipe deprecationem nostram’ (‘receive our prayer’). Towards the end of the Gloria the name ‘Iesu Christe’ appears for the second time, and is here emphasized with sustained chords high in the singers’ ranges. The final phrase, ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’, once again adopts the melodic outline of the chanson, this time covering the angular interval of the seventh in the minimum possible time, delivering a climactic finale to the movement.

As the longest movement of the Mass Ordinary, the Credo presents significant compositional challenges, particularly when the Mass setting is based on so small a model as Richafort’s chanson. Manchicourt turns this challenge into an opportunity by setting many of the quasi-repetitive phrases of the text to the same melodic fragment, creating the effect of a litany. In the opening section, for instance, the words ‘Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero’ (‘God of God, light of light, very God of very God’) each repeat the same pitches, passing the motif between the voices antiphonally. The same melodic material—again based on the opening of the chanson—returns for the ‘et incarnatus’, the most solemn part of the Credo. Lower and upper-voice duets vary the texture in the following two sections (‘Crucifixus’ and ‘Et resurrexit’), and the ‘Et iterum’ is set to a trio between first soprano, alto and tenor. Unusually, since the Christological sections are often seen as the most emotionally charged words of the Credo, Manchicourt seems to have been particularly inspired by the last paragraph of the text, beginning at ‘Et in Spiritum Sanctum’ (‘And [I believe] in the Holy Spirit’). Returning to a five-voice texture, the final section of his Credo setting builds to a spine-tingling climax at ‘Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum’ (‘And I look for the resurrection of the dead’), where—as at the crucial moments of the Gloria—chordal homophony emphasizes the text, a sudden harmonic motion onto a chord of F major further suggesting the wrenching significance of these words.

The Sanctus once again makes use of sectionalization, this time introducing another tenor and bass duet for the ‘Pleni sunt caeli’. Like many of his contemporaries, Manchicourt sets the ‘Hosanna’ section in triple time, although intriguingly he does not alter the rhythm of the chanson melody. The result is a whirling kaleidoscope of cross-rhythms, with prominent use of hemiola technique, in which two bars of a fast triple time become three slower beats. The composer’s command of tessitura is also in evidence here, as the soprano parts reach the highest pitch of the entire mass. The Benedictus is set for a trio of two sopranos and alto (sung here by the three Ashby sisters).

In the final movement, Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), a sixth part is introduced in the second half: this is a second alto voice, adding to the already preponderantly high texture of the work. The Mass thus finishes on an ethereal note, with the return in long notes of a motif, first heard in the ‘Christe’, at ‘dona nobis pacem’ (‘grant us peace’).

from notes by Stephen Rice © 2007

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