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Missa a note negre
5vv (6vv in Agnus Dei); based on Rore's chanson Tout ce qu'on peut en elle voir; MunBS 45
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

'Rore: Missa Doulce mémoire & Missa a note negre' (CDA67913)
Rore: Missa Doulce mémoire & Missa a note negre
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Movement 1: Kyrie
Movement 2: Gloria
Movement 3: Credo
Movement 4: Sanctus and Benedictus
Movement 5: Agnus Dei

Missa a note negre
The Mass title Missa a note negre reflects its relationship with the subgenre of madrigals that became popular around the mid-century, in which shorter note values—hence ‘black noteheads’—were used substantially. This Mass is thus even more madrigalian in its declamation than Missa Doulce mémoire. It is based on a chanson, set by Rore himself:

Tout ce qu’on peut en elle voir
N’est que douceur et amitié,
Beauté, bonté, et un vouloir
Tout plein d’amoureuse pitié.
Mais je n’en suis édifié
De rien mieux, car le regard d’elle
Me met en une peine telle
Que ne la puis dire à moitié.
Si ne la vois, je me lamente,
Quand je la vois, je me tourmente:
Le doux n’est jamais sans l’amer,
Voilà que c’est de trop d’aymer.
All that one can see in her
Is nothing but sweetness and friendship,
Beauty, goodness, and a spirit
Full of loving empathy.
But by this I am not inspired to
Better things, for looking at her
Gives me such pain
That I cannot tell the half of it.
If I do not see her, I lament,
When I see her, I am tormented:
There is no sweetness without bitterness,
So it is to love too much.

The chanson mixes Parisian and Low Countries style, beginning with homophonic treatment of the first eight lines, followed by an imitative section before returning to direct declamation for the lapidary final couplet. The Mass setting is reasonably conventional in its use of the opening phrase to begin the Kyrie and Gloria, though in later movements the rising third motif migrates to inner voices: the altus in the Credo and Sanctus, and the second tenor in the Agnus Dei. Another notable borrowing from the model is the low phrase which is found towards the end of several movements, where the cantus reaches low D (sounding middle C at the present performing pitch), derived from the phrase ‘Voilà que c’est’ in the chanson’s final line. As in Missa Doulce mémoire, a central section of the Credo is reduced to four voices, and the Benedictus is a trio: the second Agnus is similarly expanded to six voices, though here the added voice is a second cantus, lightening the texture but also adding a weight of sound that builds an impressive rhetorical plea before the Mass subsides into a peaceful triple-time ‘dona nobis pacem’.

from notes by Stephen Rice © 2013

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67913 track 12
Sanctus and Benedictus
Recording date
9 August 2012
Recording venue
The Church of St Michael and All Angels, Summertown, Oxford, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Antony Pitts
Recording engineer
Phil Rowlands
Hyperion usage
  1. Rore: Missa Doulce mémoire & Missa a note negre (CDA67913)
    Disc 1 Track 12
    Release date: August 2013
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