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Johannes Ockeghem: Missa Prolationum

Ockeghem / Ensemble Musica Nova / Kandel
Release Date: 02/12/2013 
Label:  Agogique   Catalog #: 8   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johannes Ockeghem
Conductor:  Lucien Kandel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Musica Nova Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



OCKEGHEM Missa prolationum. Alma Redemptoris Mater. Salve Regina I Lucien Kandel (ct, cond); Ens Musica Nova AGOGIQUE 008 (57:13 Text and Translation)


The eighth version of this remarkable Mass follows the first recording by James Fleetwood in 1954 ( Fanfare 10:4), Clytus Gottwald’s in 1973, Richard Taruskin’s in 1978 (3:4 and 10:4), René Clemencic’s in 1985 (10:4), Paul Hillier’s in 1988 (EMI, later on Virgin), Read more Edward Wickham’s in 1995 (19:2), and Bo Holten’s in 1997 (21:4). The Wickham review was the occasion for a thorough comparison of the four recordings that I had heard at that time. After acquiring the Hilliard (never issued here by EMI or submitted for review by Virgin) it seemed to me the best of all. It would be remiss of me if I did not note that Virgin currently has a two-disc set containing this Mass, the Missa Mi-Mi , the Requiem, and five motets in very fine renditions at an irresistibly low price. Like Kandel’s previous offering, the Missa cujusvis toni ( Fanfare 32:2), this is termed a “speculative” Mass, for it is not based on a cantus firmus like his other dozen Masses. Richard Taruskin calls these two works “the most famous tours de force in all of fifteenth-century music.” The point is made well and frequently that complexity in Ockeghem’s music need not occupy the attention of the listener, even if wordy explanations are required to describe how the work is constructed. The title of this Mass refers to prolation, the division of the semibreve into two minims alternative to the division into three minims; likewise, tempus might be perfectum, dividing the breve into three semibreves, or imperfectum, dividing the breve into two semibreves. Ockeghem chose to use a different tempus and a different prolatio in each voice. Furthermore, the parts are notated only in two lines, since the four voices sing the two parts in double canon, and the canon is sung at the unison in Kyrie I, at the second in Christe , at the third in Kyrie II, at the fourth in Gloria, and so on until the singers reach the liturgical climax of the Mass at the octave in Hosanna (the Benedictus and Agnus Dei are canons at the fourth or the fifth). For the faithful who also knew music, the consecration of the Mass must have been hair-raising as the canon at the octave came to an end.


This is the sixth offering by this remarkable ensemble in a repertory limited to Machaut, Dufay, and Ockeghem. Like Wickham’s ensemble in this Mass, it is made up of two voices to a part. Kandel’s tempos are uniformly broader in every movement than Wickham’s, consistently 25 percent slower. This is by no means a judgment of one as superior to the other: Each realizes the beauty and the intricacy of the music in an enviable manner. Some may give added weight to the fillers, for Wickham has five varied works by four contemporaries of Ockeghem, while Kandel adds two of Ockeghem’s motets to frame the Mass. The Salve Regina is the longer one from Sistine chapel MS CS 42, recorded by Wickham on GAU 139 (not the shorter one from CS 46 sometimes attributed to Basiron and so recorded by Wickham on GAU 204). While Wickham used a new edition by Jaap van Bentham, Kandel uses the Chigi Codex (published in facsimile in 1987) while consulting a microfilm of the Vienna manuscript, which has the canons worked out. Kandel’s two motets are also well done, though again slower than Wickham’s tempos in both. There is no need to reject one over the other, for Wickham has given us the complete sacred music of the composer on eight CDs. (A set of five CDs, omitting the fillers by other composers, was not issued over here, but since Salve Regina II was attributed to Basiron, it was not included.) Kandel gives us the two speculative Masses rendered in a surpassingly splendid way, and Ockeghem enthusiasts, who probably have all of Wickham, will also want to hear the felicities that Kandel brings to his interpretations. Everything he touches turns to gold. Listen closely, for this ensemble is special.


FANFARE: J. F. Weber
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Works on This Recording

1. Salve Regina by Johannes Ockeghem
Conductor:  Lucien Kandel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Musica Nova Ensemble
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; Flanders, Belgium 
2. Missa prolationum by Johannes Ockeghem
Conductor:  Lucien Kandel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Musica Nova Ensemble
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; Flanders, Belgium 
3. Alma redemptoris Mater by Johannes Ockeghem
Conductor:  Lucien Kandel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Musica Nova Ensemble
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; Flanders, Belgium 

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