Today, to say nothing of the inumerable musicains who practise their art with truly wonderful talent, we are witnessing - whether by virtue of some divine influence or the fruit of diligent labour - the infinite flourishingg of composes like Johannes Ockeghem, Johannes Regis, Antoine Busnois, Firmin Caron and Guillaume Fauges, who all pride themselves on following the teachings of such recently deceased masters of this divine art as John Dunstable, Gilles Bichois or Guillaume Dufay.
Johannes Tinctoris, Preface to The Art of Composition, 1477
I wrote in the Danish Thread about the superb value for money recordings available from Dutch classical label Brilliant Classics. One of my 'records of the year' for 2004 would be their 4 CD box O Magnum Mysterium.
Roughly speaking classical music started just before 1400 in Flanders, where an unprecedented burst of creativity formed the Flemish School, producing the most amazing and complex polyphonic choral textures. The masses in this 4 CD set were written for the clerical courts of the time, in Flanders, France and Italy, and were performed in the regular church rites. Despite the theoretical complexity of the choral writing, the music is very accessible. There are some wonderful works to discover in this set; for me the masses of Johannes Ockeghem were a revelation. (There is an informative posting about Ockeghem on the web site of Alex Ross, music critic of the New Yorker).
The expert performances are directed by Clytus Gottwald with the now sadly disbanded Schola Cantorum Stuttgart who took the admirable decision to disband when they were still on top. Clytus Gottwald also wrote the most informative and illuminating booklet which contrasts with the skimpy offerings of most other budget labels.
All this with excellent packaging and first class sound for a UK price of just £13.99. These Brilliant Classic packages are too good to miss. They can be difficult to track down in the shops, my copy came via the excellent HMV online store which has performed far better than the problem bedevilled Amazon UK over the recent Christmas season.
If you want a first class introduction to medieval polyphony this is the unmissable bargain of the year.
If you are already into religous music of this period here is a list of the works that you can buy for just over £3 a CD.
Guillaume Dufay Missa ‘’Ecce ancilla domini’’
Johannes Ockeghem Missa pro defunctis
Guillaume Dufay (1400-1474)
Missa ‘’Ecce ancilla domini’’ 1463 for 4 voices/für vier Stimmen
Johannes Ockeghem Missa prolationum
Josquin Desprez Missa „Da pacem“
Johannes Ockeghem (1420-1495)
Missa prolationum For 4 voices/Für vier Stimmen
Missa cuiusvis toni
Josquin Desprez Missa super “Malheur me bat”
Heinrich Finck (1445-1527)
Sanctus (from/aus: Missa sex vocum 1512)
Johannes Ockeghem (1420-1495)
Missa cuiusvis toni For 4 voices/Für vier Stimmen
Josquin Desprez (1440-1521)
Missa super “Malheur me bat” For 4 to 6 voices/ Für vier bis sechs Stimmen
Nicolas Gombert Musae Jovis ter maximi
Antoine Brumel Missa „ Et ecce terraemotus“
Heinrich Isaac Missa paschalis
o magnum mysterium
Nicolas Gombert (+ around/um 1556)
Musae Jovis ter maximi
6-part Motets on the death of Josquin Desprez/Sechsstimmige Motette auf den Tod von Josquin Desprez
Antoine Brumel (1460-1520)
Missa „ Et ecce terraemotus“ For 12 voices/Für zwölf Stimmen
Heinrich Isaac (1450-1517)
Missa paschalis For 6 voices/Für sechs Stimmen