Rogier’s Missa Ego sum qui sum
is a parody Mass, based on an Eastertide motet by one of his predecessors at the Spanish Habsburg court, Nicolas Gombert (who had been in the employ of Charles V). It must rank as one of the finest settings of the Mass ordinary of the late sixteenth century, dazzling in its invention and sheer beauty. Gombert had been one of the most influential composers of the post-Josquin period, developing a style of composition based on continuous imitation and almost relentless expressivity with an extraordinarily high level of dissonance. Rogier’s Mass seems to be a tribute to this style rather than being heavily reliant on the actual motet. In fact, Rogier merely takes his points of imitation from Gombert’s motet, but the spirit of Gombert lives on through the surprisingly high incidence, for this date, of false relations (specifically notated in the source) as well as the large number and wide variety of suspensions. One of the most interesting features of this Mass is a sequence that occurs towards the end of each movment (except the Sanctus). Consisting of a series of descending fourths, it is remarkably similar to sequential patterns that occur towards the end of some of Gombert’s chansons (it is also found in some of Rogier’s other Masses, such as the Missa Inclita stirps Jesse
). The effect of this sequence is highly expressive since it opens the music up and provides a fitting culmination to the contrapuntal ingenuity of each movement. Most notable perhaps is the Agnus Dei. Here the sequence is stated three times, the last of which has the bass initially rising rather than falling—a magnificent twist in a movement that is the emotional climax of the Mass. What is also interesting about this sequence is that something very similar occurs throughout Monteverdi’s Missa In illo tempore
, published in 1610. This Mass is also based on a six-part motet by Gombert and the almost obsessive use of this sequence on the descending fourth must have owed something to Rogier. Thus does Rogier perhaps emerge as a more influential figure than hitherto thought.
Although we lack documentary verification, it is likely that Rogier knew the music of his Spanish contemporaries, especially Victoria and Alonso Lobo, for his music shares some of the intensity that we associate with these figures. Like them, his six-part writing is genuinely contrapuntal (Palestrina, say, tends to write more antiphonally when employing more than five parts) which results in very rich textures (listen, for example, to the end of the Credo). Only at certain doctrinally important moments of the text, such as the wonderful setting of the ‘Et incarnatus est’ passage in the Credo, does Rogier write homophonically, although he reduces the texture to four parts occasionally, such as in the Credo’s ‘Crucifixus’ section or the hauntingly ethereal Benedictus.
from notes by David Trendell © 2010