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Missa Sancti Anthonii Viennensis/Abbatis
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass, with Propers

'Dufay: Mass for St Anthony Abbot' (CDA67474)
Dufay: Mass for St Anthony Abbot
Movement 1: Scitote quoniam mirificavit (Introit)
Movement 2: Kyrie
Movement 3: Gloria
Movement 4: Thronus eius sicut sol (Gradual)
Movement 5: Alleluia: Vox de caelo
Movement 6: Credo
Movement 7: Inclito Anthonio Spiritus Sanctus dixit (Offertory)
Movement 8: Sanctus
Movement 9: Agnus Dei

Missa Sancti Anthonii Viennensis/Abbatis
The Mass for St Anthony Abbot is a three-voice plenary mass comprising the sections of the Ordinary together with movements of the Proper (Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory) which set the texts of the day, and thus mark the special character of the individual feast. The absence in the source of both the Kyrie and the Communion has been compensated for in Planchart’s edition used for this performance, in the first case by reusing the Agnus music to the words of the Kyrie, and in the second by the inclusion of a contemporary setting of the appropriate Communion from elsewhere in the Trent codices. The Proper movements use the prescribed plainchants, which are flexibly rhythmicized and elaborated in the highest voice-part, and presented as long arcs of melody that unfold concurrently with the freely invented lower voices. The result is a free flow of polyphony of generally contemplative character that is tautened, and given focus and momentum, by the beautifully judged interaction of the vocal lines, in particular by their rhythmic interplay. The Ordinary movements, too, are conceived in a freely unfolding style that has no overtly dramatic or declamatory gestures, but is driven forward both by the careful dovetailing of the parts, with their incisive offset rhythms and melodic independence, and also by the skilful control of the cadences, in terms of their relative force and varied placement.

Beyond the moments of strong demarcation which come with the section breaks, there is one clearly audible structural marker: the top voice opens each of the five Ordinary movements with the same beautifully crafted ‘motto opening’, the first segment of which begins with the descending tetrachord F–E–D–C before expanding to fill the entire middle octave, C–C, of its range (the total compass of the part extends three notes either side of this). Along with a few other characteristic melodic ideas, this archetypically simple pattern recurs in a variety of figurative guises during the course of the work, though it does so more as part of the ever-changing ebb and flow of the piece than as a ‘motive’ or ‘theme’ in the modern sense. This observation further serves to highlight the way in which this style, far from projecting its effects with the kind of self-dramatizing insistence we might expect from the experience of later music, instead allows its ideas to proliferate with little concern for direct repetition or other similarly clear-cut auditory cues. It aims, rather, at a maximum of variety and invention (Tinctoris’s famed varietas) within an overall textural ideal of unforced clarity and balance. This of course doesn’t mean that it refuses ever to adopt a more demonstrative tone of voice. On the contrary, it goes through passages of melodic and rhythmic intensification, and even presents flashes of brilliance and moments of grandeur, from time to time. (The ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’ at the end of the Gloria, the brilliant high-lying melody of the ‘Et ponam’ section of the Gradual, and the ‘et vitam venturi’ conclusion to the Credo are cases in point.) But these serve precisely to reinforce, by means of contrast, the listener’s cumulative impression of an infinitely subtle, endlessly inventive play of sonority in which technical and expressive means have been mastered with elegance and ease.

from notes by Philip Weller © 2005

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Details for CDA67474 track 6
Recording date
15 January 2004
Recording venue
All Saints, Tooting, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Neil Hutchinson
Hyperion usage
  1. Dufay: Mass for St Anthony Abbot (CDA67474)
    Disc 1 Track 6
    Release date: March 2005
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