In basing a Mass on Claudin de Sermisy’s motet Si bona suscepimus
, Phinot followed convention to a much greater extent than in the pieces discussed above. Yet even here expressivity is to the fore: Sermisy’s is one of a large group of settings of this extract from the book of Job, which evidently appealed to sixteenth-century composers for the pathos of its text. The formal plan of Sermisy’s motet is unusually sectional for the period, with several internal repetitions which combine with heavy use of homophony to add weight to the sentiments of the text. Most of the melodic phrases are set in ‘pair imitation’, for instance at the opening of the piece, where the top two voices sing a phrase in two-part counterpoint, which is then repeated by the lower two, with or without additional decoration. This technique was beloved of the preceding generation of composers: Josquin Desprez, and composers active in Milan such as Loyset Compère, are especially known for it. By the 1520s when Sermisy’s setting was presumably composed, this was a slightly archaic device, which combines with the frequent pauses such as those between ‘Dominus dedit’ and ‘Dominus abstulit’ to add poignancy to the suffering of Job.
In Phinot’s Missa Si bona suscepimus these characteristics are exploited frequently: perhaps the most noticeable device is the use of Sermisy’s repeated phrase ‘sit nomen Domini benedictum’ at the ends of movements. Some of Sermisy’s sectionalization survives here also: even though the Mass is short by contemporary standards, the Gloria and Credo are divided into three and four sections respectively, with reduced voices for ‘Domine Deus’ (no bass), ‘Crucifixus’ (no tenor or bass), and ‘Et resurrexit’ (no soprano). However, Phinot also exceeds his model in introducing long melismas that are not found in Sermisy; thus he avoids the pitfall of extending the mournful text-setting of the motet to the entire Mass, much of which is joyful or even ecstatic in nature.
from notes by Roger Jacob & Stephen Rice © 2009