Loyset Compère (c. 1445–1518) was born in the Franco-Belgian border region where so many Franco-Flemish composers of the 15th century came from. He first appeared at the Sforza court in Milan until the murder of the duke ended the glory of his chapel. But the sacred music that he wrote in those three years can be found in the Milan cathedral codices. Compère then seems to have spent some time in Moulins, where Duke Jean II, the king’s brother-in-law, resided (he seems to have written poems that Compère set as three-voice songs). He is next found as a singer at the French royal court of Charles VIII in 1486. After 1498 he occupied administrative positions in Cambrai, Douai, and St. Quentin, probably the end of his composing activity. The newly discovered birthdates for Josquin, Obrecht, and Agricola, all over a decade later than Compère, place him ahead of all his contemporaries as an unexpected innovator of the imitative style that they continued. His surviving works includes 50 songs, 20 motets, and half a dozen Mass cycles of the motet type practiced only in Milan. I have only one full CD of Compère’s music, recorded exactly two decades before this one by the same ensemble on Metronome (Fanfare 17:6). My lukewarm praise for this early example of the group’s work is not borne out by the enjoyment I have taken from it in the intervening time. Compère’s skimpy discography goes back, however, to the end of the shellac era, while “Dictes moy” just appeared on a Tallis Scholars disc (36:5) and “Vous me faites” was on La Main Harmonique’s first recording (34:6). Back in the LP era, David Munrow included “O bone Jesu on “The Art of the Netherlands” (still available on CD). This last work is found in many Spanish sources credited to three different composers, but Petrucci’s publication in a book of motets in 1519 is a credible indication of its true composer.
Only two pieces here are sacred works, but the longest of all is the opening Magnificat from the first of the Milan cathedral codices, through-composed rather than the usual alternatim setting. The longest of the secular works is “Mes pensées,” written in the same style as the texts certainly known to be the duke’s. “Tant ay d’ennuy” is a motet-chanson with a virelai in the upper voice and the familiar “O vos omnes” as the bassus. “Une plaisant fillette,” a late work, is notable for a through-composed setting of a strophic song. The earlier disc leaned heavily toward sacred music, so this disc may better represent the proportion of secular works that survive. David Fallows wrote the note, as he did for the first disc. It is becoming clear that Compère is due for the kind of attention that his contemporaries have already achieved on records. Perhaps this is the first entry in a new era. Anyone who knows the superb Orlando Consort will not pass it up.