The Missa Au travail suis
by Johannes Ockeghem (c.1425–1497) was based on a secular model – a chanson either by Ockeghem himself or the unknown ‘Barbingant’. In fact Ockeghem only quoted the tenor from this three-part model (at that time the tenor was often held to be the ‘tune’), doing so infrequently but obviously: the first ten notes of it may be clearly heard at the beginning of each movement as a head-motif. After that references are hard to identify and the music settles into a pattern of gentle, undemonstrative chamber-music, the second Agnus Dei summing up the stillness of Ockeghem’s conception. As was customary in the fifteenth century, Ockeghem kept his four voices within a narrow compass (except in the extreme case of the second Agnus) and regularly scored down to duets and trios.
from notes by Peter Phillips © 2009