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Des Prez: Missa Ave Maris Stella / Bull, Cappella Pratensis

Desprez / Cappella Pratensis / Bull
Release Date: 05/13/2014 
Label:  Challenge   Catalog #: 72632   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Josquin Des PrézAnonymous
Conductor:  Stratton Bull
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Pratensis
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



JOSQUIN DES PREZ Missa Ave maris stella. Missus est Gabriel angelus. Mittit ad virginum (attrib.) Cappella Pratensis CHALLENGE 72632 (57:00 Text and Translation)


Stratton Bull has proved a worthy successor to Rebecca Stewart, the founder of this vocal ensemble based in the Netherlands. His first disc was unique, not just for the liturgical recreation of a Mass in St. Donatian church in Bruges in the late 15th century with an Obrecht setting and Read more chant Propers, but especially for the added DVD of the Mass with all the sung parts appropriate to the period ( Fanfare 33:4). There is nothing on the market remotely competitive with that DVD. After an Ockeghem–La Rue coupling (35:6) and another disc not yet received, he has given us another Renaissance Mass with chant Propers.


Josquin’s Missa Ave maris stella has enjoyed seven previous recordings, mostly very good, beginning with two that arrived in the same month in 1969. John Reeves White on Decca and George Hunter on Nonesuch were both welcomed, even though the former, with a professional ensemble, used instruments abundantly and the latter, with a college student choir, did not. The first two CDs came close together also, Andrew Parrott (17:1) and Bernard Fabre-Garrus (not reviewed here); the former got a rave review. Eckehard Kiem’s 1999 recording has not been available here. Most recently two versions by Peter Phillips (35:4) and Marcel Cordes (35:6) have been heard, followed by the present issue. Of the three new versions, Phillips has slower tempos, while Bull is only marginally faster than Cordes, both using pairs of men’s voices. (Phillips has mixed voices in pairs with an extra tenor.) Bull’s tight ensemble, gathered around the bookstand with Bull in their midst, is clearly more blended than Cordes’s. Phillips is recording a complete set of Masses that will have the special value of completeness and compact layout (two to a disc), but Bull’s marvelous version with its liturgical reconstruction and beautiful singing is special.


Based on one of the most beloved Marian hymns, one that belongs to the feast of the Annunciation (March 25), the Mass has been placed here alongside chant Propers for votive Masses of the Blessed Virgin on Saturdays in Advent, a formula that has the gospel reading about the annunciation of the angel Gabriel to Mary. The program focuses on Josquin’s place in the Sistine Choir from 1489 to 1494, imagining a celebration on a Saturday in the chapel. When he arrived, the new chapel of Sixtus IV was just six years old, and the frescos of Michelangelo on the ceiling and front wall, its most celebrated feature, were still in the future. This part of Josquin’s career has been the subject of several recent CDs, including one directed by Jesse Rodin (37:1) and two by Maurice Bourbon (37:5). Both reviews discussed what is known of the works Josquin composed during his tenure there. The Mass on this disc was first printed in Petrucci’s Liber Secundus in 1505, then copied into a Vatican choirbook by 1507. To put the best case for placing the composition of the Mass in Rome earlier, Alejandro Planchart defended the idea in The Josquin Companion (2000). But there is serious doubt about the date of the earliest manuscript source, Milan 2267, so it is not certain that he wrote it as early as the Roman period. Even so, this Mass is a good fit for the program, for Sistine choirbooks of the time contain an abundance of Marian music, including some by Josquin. The Mass is sung from Brussels, B.R.A. MS 9126 with reference to Rome, C.S. MS 41.


Chant hymns were provided with polyphonic even-verses in the 15th century, and this is one of a large number that Dufay set for three voices when he sang in the old (pre-Sixtus) chapel before 1433. Josquin then set it for four voices, and other composers did the same. So the program begins with the hymn that Josquin parodied. We hear Dufay’s setting in the second verse, Josquin’s in the fourth verse, and anonymous settings in the sixth and seventh verses. Josquin’s sequence Mittit ad virginem is described here as dubious, but Helmuth Osthoff and Jeremy Noble both call it authentic and it is included in both the old and the new Complete Works. His four-voice motet Missus est Gabriel angelus was recorded long ago by Bruno Turner in his Archiv series and recently by Stephen Rice in the disc that featured Pierre Moulu’s Mass based on this motet (34:1). The two additional pieces, exquisitely sung, fit perfectly into the Mass.


The chant Propers are sung from two Sistine Chapel Graduals (C.S. 5 and 12) dating from 1464–71, using pronunciation typical of French singers at the time (the chapel singers were predominantly French). The chants are sung in a mensural manner such as singers trained in polyphony at the time would have adopted. The chanting, both choral and solo, is exceptional, the solo verse of the gradual especially noteworthy. We also hear the Preface and the Pater noster sung straightforwardly with Italian pronunciation; the choir’s response to both of these cantillations is improvised polyphony, a nice touch most likely practiced at the time but seldom heard on records. This is an exceptional production, to be placed alongside any other version that you might have. It deserves the highest recommendation.


FANFARE: J. F. Weber
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Works on This Recording

1.
Ave maris stella by Josquin Des Préz
Conductor:  Stratton Bull
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Pratensis
Period: Renaissance 
Venue:  Church of Vieusart, Belgium 
Length: 7 Minutes 4 Secs. 
2.
Rorate caeli desuper, introit in mode 4 for the 4th Sunday in Advent by Anonymous
Conductor:  Stratton Bull
Period: Medieval 
Written: Europe 
Venue:  Church of Vieusart, Belgium 
Length: 2 Minutes 19 Secs. 
3.
Missa "Ave maris stella" by Josquin Des Préz
Conductor:  Stratton Bull
Period: Renaissance 
Venue:  Church of Vieusart, Belgium 
Length: 25 Minutes 31 Secs. 
4.
Tollite Portas, graduale (PS. 23:7, 3, 4) by Anonymous
Conductor:  Stratton Bull
Period: Medieval 
Written: Europe 
Venue:  Church of Vieusart, Belgium 
Length: 4 Minutes 12 Secs. 
5.
Ave Maria, alleluia (2nd Mode) by Anonymous
Conductor:  Stratton Bull
Period: Medieval 
Written: Europe 
Venue:  Church of Vieusart, Belgium 
Length: 2 Minutes 26 Secs. 
6.
Ave Maria (Offertorium) by Anonymous
Conductor:  Stratton Bull
Period: Medieval 
Venue:  Church of Vieusart, Belgium 
Length: 1 Minutes 58 Secs. 
7.
Mittit ad Virginem by Josquin Des Préz
Conductor:  Stratton Bull
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century 
Venue:  Church of Vieusart, Belgium 
Length: 7 Minutes 33 Secs. 
8.
Prefatio by Anonymous
Conductor:  Stratton Bull
Period: Medieval 
Written: Europe 
Venue:  Church of Vieusart, Belgium 
Length: 3 Minutes 33 Secs. 
9.
Pater noster by Anonymous
Conductor:  Stratton Bull
Period: Medieval 
Venue:  Church of Vieusart, Belgium 
Length: 1 Minutes 11 Secs. 
10.
Ecce Virgo Concipies, communio by Anonymous
Conductor:  Stratton Bull
Period: Medieval 
Written: Europe 
Venue:  Church of Vieusart, Belgium 
Length: 0 Minutes 41 Secs. 
11.
Missus est Gabriel angelus, motet for 4 parts by Josquin Des Préz
Conductor:  Stratton Bull
Period: Renaissance 
Venue:  Church of Vieusart, Belgium 
Length: 3 Minutes 8 Secs. 

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