Wednesday, 2 September 2015
Ockeghem - Missa Au Travail Suis/De Plus En Plus - Tallis Scholars
Fabulous music, beautifully sung
This is a disc of two of Ockeghem's finest mass settings recorded to mark the 500th anniversary of his death in 1997. Ockeghem wrote some of the most beautiful music of the 15th Century; it is less sonorous than later polyphony and these are both four-voice settings which have passages for three and two voices. This gives it a spare but lovely feel, perhaps akin to the beauty of a plain stone church rather than that of a richly ornamented cathedral, and it is truly involving and rewarding.
All of Ockeghem's masses have been excellently recorded by The Clerk's Group and it is interesting to hear what The Tallis Scholars (acknowledged to be one of the truly great ensembles in Renaissance music) make of it. Before each mass they sing the chanson on which it is based. These performances have a slightly rough, rustic feel as befits a popular song of the day and sound similar to the way in which The Clerk's Group perform the masses themselves. The Tallis Scholars bring a more pure, full and rounded sound to the masses and which you prefer is largely a matter of personal taste. For me, much as I love the Clerk's Group's recordings, I prefer this one - it has a pure, limpid beauty about it which I find utterly seductive and, of course, the technical aspects are flawless: perfect intonation, wonderful fluency and balance of line and a true understanding of the relationship of music to text. It's a great disc, which also has Peter Phillips's excellent commentary to commend it.
(If you would prefer to try just one of these masses (Au travail suis) on a brilliant budget double CD with four other wonderful masses by other Flemish composers sung by The Tallis Scholars, I can wholeheartedly recommend their "Flemish Masters" discs Flemish Masters which is a fantastic double CD and a major bargain.)