Hyperion Records

Missa Super Oeniades Nymphae
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

'Regnart: Missa Super Oeniades Nymphae & other sacred music' (CDA67640)
Regnart: Missa Super Oeniades Nymphae & other sacred music
Movement 1: Kyrie
Movement 2: Gloria
Movement 3: Credo
Movement 4: Sanctus and Benedictus
Movement 5: Agnus Dei

Missa Super Oeniades Nymphae
In the Missa Super Oeniades Nymphae the designation ‘super’ (‘based on’) indicates that the Mass setting uses ‘parody’ or ‘imitation’ technique, whereby musical material from an existing work is transformed to become the basis of the Mass (or of other types of works such as Magnificat settings). Regrettably, the work on which this Mass setting is based, which to judge from its title was most likely a secular motet to a Humanistic poem, is not known to have survived; the probable composer was Regnart himself. Certainly the consistent use of a head-motif to begin each new movement (other than the Agnus Dei) supports this view. It is possible that the original Oeniades Nymphae was an incidental work for a theatrical entertainment: similar material by Lassus survives from the Munich court, but as a private setting Regnart’s piece (if it was his) would have been unlikely to have been published.

The Mass setting, for six voices, is notable for its impressive control of pacing. Much as Lassus frequently did, Regnart divides his ensemble into varying groups of three or four voices, which are used antiphonally to emphasize important elements of the Mass text through varied repetition. An example occurs in the Gloria, where the words ‘Quoniam tu solus sanctus. Tu solus Dominus. Tu solus altissimus, Jesu Christe’ (‘For you only are holy. You only are the Lord. You only are the most high, Jesus Christ’) are divided between upper and lower voice groups, building through a rapid and syllabic declamation of the three attributes of Jesus, before the name itself is further emphasized by being sung in doubled note values, and immediately repeated. The remainder of the Gloria text (‘Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris. Amen’—‘With the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father. Amen’) is similarly subjected to repetition by varied voice groups, but in the context of a much fuller texture, delivering a suitably triumphant ending to the movement.

Another echo of Lassus’s procedures comes in the Credo, where Regnart adopts triple time for short sections such as ‘Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem [peccatorum]’ (‘I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness [of sins]’). In contrast to composers of a slightly earlier generation, it is not Regnart’s habit to write sections for heavily reduced numbers of voices such as duets and trios: partly this may have been a result of the lighter textures he favoured in the full sections. The central stretch of the Credo (‘Crucifixus … sedet ad dexteram Patris’—‘He was crucified … is seated at the right hand of the Father’) is set for four voices, however, as is the short Benedictus.

from notes by Stephen Rice © 2007

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