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Missa pro defunctis 'Requiem'
4vv; Ludovici Viadanae … Missarum quatuor vocum. Cum basso continuo ad organum, liber primus. Item missa pro Defunctis Clementis non Papae (Antwerp: Phalèse, 1625). RISM 1625/1
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Mass for the Dead

'Clemens non Papa: Requiem & Penitential Motets' (CDA67848)
Clemens non Papa: Requiem & Penitential Motets
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Movement 1: Introitus  Requiem aeternam
Movement 2: Kyrie
Movement 3: Tractus  Absolve, Domine
Movement 4: Offertorium  Domine Jesu Christe
Movement 5: Sanctus and Benedictus
Movement 6: Agnus Dei
Movement 7: Communio  Lux aeterna

Missa pro defunctis 'Requiem'
The Missa pro defunctis is not one of Clemens’s better-known Mass-settings, which is somewhat surprising given its austere beauty. Like most Requiem settings of the Renaissance, it combines movements from the Ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei—the Gloria and Credo would not have been sung at Masses for the dead) with those Proper to the occasion, namely the Introit, Tract, Offertory, and Communion. For most of the Mass the plainchant melodies are paraphrased in the tenor voice, though occasionally they are found in the soprano (for instance in the Kyrie and Offertory). Given the relatively restricted palette of four voices and chant paraphrase chosen by Clemens, he is able to conjure a remarkably varied range of harmonic colours across the seven movements of the Requiem.

The Introit is the most conventional movement, with the chant in long notes in the tenor initially; for the Psalm verse ‘et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem’ (‘and the vow will be repaid to you in Jerusalem’) the texture becomes homophonic with a straight falsobordone harmonization of the Psalm tone in the top voice. After the mandatory repeat of the opening section the Kyrie adopts a similar homophonic style, though Clemens begins to vary his choice of harmonies, notably by introducing an unexpected final chord for the Christe section. The Tract follows the plainsong into a different tonal area, reverting to a more imitative texture. Having created the dialogue between these two styles, Clemens begins in the latter part of the Tract to mingle them, first introducing harmonic twists (perhaps significantly at the word ‘evadere’), then underlining the sentiment of the final text phrase with a general pause and homophonic texture.

The Offertory is both the central movement and the longest, at 4'30". In the main it is rapid, moving in fast semibreves and homophonically. The final line of the first section, ‘quam olim Abrahae promisisti’ (‘as long ago you promised Abraham’) is more relaxed in spirit, yielding to chant (taken here by the women) and, following a further energetic verse, returning to round off the movement in a reflective vein.

Like the Kyrie, the Sanctus and Agnus Dei are both short, but here—especially in the Agnus—Clemens is at his most ingenious in avoiding unnecessary repetition. Each invocation of the Agnus Dei ends on a slightly different chord: the final one is forced by the melodic shape of the top voice to finish in the minor, unusually for any Renaissance piece but especially for a Requiem movement since the chants are largely in the major mode (which at this time lacked any connotation of happiness, being regarded rather more as harsh). Finally the Communion Proper completes the Mass in tender fashion, with a return to the ‘Requiem aeternam’ text and almost static chords for its response ‘et lux perpetua luceat eis’ (‘and let perpetual light shine on them’), followed by a lightly ornamented repeat of the line ‘quia pius es’ (‘since you are merciful’). Clemens’s Requiem Mass may be one of the less demonstrative sixteenth-century settings of these texts, eschewing the compositional virtuosity that characterizes his motets, but it achieves a solemn reflectiveness that is highly appropriate musically for this ritual of mourning.

from notes by Stephen Rice © 2010

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