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Missa Gotica / Peres, Ensemble Organum


Release Date: 09/08/2009 
Label:  Zig Zag   Catalog #: 90601   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Anonymous
Conductor:  Marcel Pérès
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Organum
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Imported from : UNITED KINGDOM   
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

There isn't a note on this spectacularly-executed CD which isn't shot through with this enthusiasm and the sense that, Now anything is possible. And in terms of the development of polyphony, indeed it was.

Missa Gotica is a recreation of an anonymous polyphonic mass from the fourteenth century - the time when the Papacy was relocated to Avignon. A major motive for this recording by the highly respected, and uncompromising, Ensemble Organum (six accomplished singers - including director Marcel Pérès) is to demonstrate the significant changes in style of such music at a time of equally significant developments in the liturgy.

Despite the calamitous nature of the fourteenth century (the Black
Read more Death, the Schism and European-wide devastation, war and poverty), its musicians, artists, writers and indeed its clerics were confident and proud of their new - and still emerging - abilities. In musical composition, for example, new understanding of arithmetic enabled more precise and expressive structures to be produced. These fitted the greater enthusiasm for observation and what we would now call 'scientific' advances; these enabled stronger and more spectacular architectural construction, for example. The tremendous belief of such makers in their world and in their powers to represent and reflect it is mirrored in the immense energy of the music on this CD.

Admittedly, the style of Ensemble Organum has always been about as different from such ensembles as The Tallis Scholars or The Sixteen, say, as you can get. Initially, you think it's a roughness and unpolished style. On more careful listening, you accept that the articulation of text and sound may be superficially 'raw'. But it's as careful and thoughtful, as practised and sophisticated as you can get without being staid or over-produced. In other words, perhaps, Ensemble Organum's performance is very genuine. We shall never know for sure how the music of that age sounded.

Self-consciously coarse Ensemble Organum's delivery is not. But that their voices and their relationship with such distant music are actively stripped of gentility and restraint is a potent virtue of what Pérès believes is an appropriate way to interpret it. And this sound - here, as with their other recordings - paradoxically brings the music to life in ways that a more apparently 'poised' style never could.

This composite Mass is also evidence of at least one important technical development, of which its contemporary performers were both aware and proud: the commonly-accepted notation of note length. The Ars subtilior was an expression of the exhilaration which composers and performers clearly felt: this developing system allowed music to be 'frozen' in time, and hence contemplated independently from its (otherwise unrecordable) performance. Think, perhaps, of the way in which piano rolls, then tape, afforded twentieth century musicians and listeners the same sense of capturing nuance - but at a much more basic level: the very sense that music existed as an entity was new and exiting. These new (notational) techniques played an important part in the move towards known and nameable composers emerging in the course of the fourteenth century. Pérès and his singers capture this excitement splendidly; they do so, too, with a perfect balance which tempers the 'rush' of a determined recreation with their unparalleled expertise.

Indeed, there isn't a note on this spectacularly-executed CD which isn't shot through with this enthusiasm and the sense that, Now anything is possible. And in terms of the development of polyphony, indeed it was. Yet the way the singers phrase the music demonstrates that confessional commitment - not specious spectacle - still dictated the tone.

Pérès has chosen for this CD to situate the changes in the context of the parallel shifts in liturgical practice introduced at the time of Avignon by the Franciscans. The Old Roman chant (explored with zest elsewhere by Ensemble Organum and Pérès of course) on which earlier polyphony had begun to be based was quite quickly eclipsed. The break with Antiquity - at least in this aspect of music-making - was lost for good. Indeed, writers from the sixteenth century coined the term Gothic (one 't' in this title) to emphasise what they saw as a desertion from a superior aesthetic.

The reconstruction on this highly desirable CD comes from French manuscripts: it was common at the time for a variety of such sources to be used in the realisation of a single Ordinary mass. That's what we have here; it's interspersed with Gregorian chant sung in the French manner. Such a blend dramatically emphasises the intricacies and subtleties of the text. It almost goes without saying that every syllable of the Ensemble's diction is clear and loaded with an expressiveness rarely found to quite this extent.

Above all, it's the energy of the singers and the singing that will stay with you - as well as the music's amazing beauty, which is borne of a nevertheless temperate match between due service to the objects(s) of the fourteenth century musicians' belief and their wish to reveal them by creations of great loveliness.

The booklet has the text of the work(s) in Latin, Modern French and English; there is also a highly informative essay in Pérès authoritative and infectiously enthusiastic style. The acoustic (modestly resonant) and production standards exceed expectations. ZigZag Territoires is to be congratulated for this important and stimulating contribution to the repertoire and its performance practice.

-- Mark Sealey, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Kyrie by Anonymous
Conductor:  Marcel Pérès
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Organum
Period: Medieval 
2.
Gloria by Anonymous
Conductor:  Marcel Pérès
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Organum
Period: Medieval 
3.
Alleluia by Anonymous
Conductor:  Marcel Pérès
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Organum
Period: Medieval 
4.
Credo by Anonymous
Conductor:  Marcel Pérès
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Organum
Period: Medieval 
5.
Preface by Anonymous
Conductor:  Marcel Pérès
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Organum
Period: Medieval 
6.
Sanctus by Anonymous
Conductor:  Marcel Pérès
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Organum
Period: Medieval 
7.
Offertoire by Anonymous
Conductor:  Marcel Pérès
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Organum
8.
Agnus Dei by Anonymous
Conductor:  Marcel Pérès
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Organum
Period: Medieval 
9.
Introit by Anonymous
Conductor:  Marcel Pérès
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Organum
Period: Medieval 
10.
Ite missa est by Anonymous
Conductor:  Marcel Pérès
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Organum
Period: Medieval 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Breathtaking Medieval Music! January 13, 2013 By Clifford H C. (Thompson, MB) See All My Reviews "Missa Gotica - Peres - Ensemble Organum - This is a remarkable project from the start to finish. I especially enjoy Ensemble Organum's grounding in the deep bass notes. Always throughout the music you get this strong sense of a grounding bass line. It is interesting that while everyone else is throwing nasal sounding high voices, this Ensemble is going downward into the natural male ranges (Tenor, Baritone and Bass) with the upper voice (Countertenor) for remarkable ornamentation and contrast. The effect is spellbinding." Report Abuse
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