Notes and Editorial Reviews
Guillaume Dufay's Missa se la face ay pale is one of the earliest examples of a Mass being thematically based on the melody of a secular song. All who perform this masterpiece are indebted somewhat to David Munrow, whose ground-breaking 1973 EMI (now Virgin) recording with the Early Music Consort of London remains the standard by which all are judged. In the notes, Diabolus in Musica (The Devil in Music) director Antoine Guerber dedicates this performance to Munrow's memory (he committed suicide in 1976) and describes first listening to Munrow's performance 20 years ago both as a revelation and as a key factor that inspired his love of medieval music. That humble acknowledgment aside, Guerber and colleagues also pay homage to Munrow's
legacy in the most important of ways--by offering arguably the best performance of this work since that of his mentor.
Unlike Munrow, who in his recording offered Dufay's original chanson and only the five primary sections of the Mass, occasionally augmented with instrumentation, Guerber takes a more purist, authentic approach. He not only eschews instrumentation, but also for a more complete presentation reconstructs the piece as was customary during the period, adding other sacred elements (in this case the Proper for Trinity Sunday). Other performers have completed their versions in similar fashion, but in comparison to Diabolus in Musica, the harmonics and textural balances suffer because of the often unorthodox ensemble sizes. For example, the four otherwise vocally outstanding members of the Hilliard Ensemble sound insufficiently thin and austere. Binkley's full choral arrangement (Focus) impresses, though it goes to the other extreme by sounding equally disproportionate. In Guerber's version the balances and clarity are absolutely perfect. There are many moments--though especially in the Credo and Sanctus--where the ensemble's sensuous expression of Dufay's complex polyphony can only be described as a religious experience.
Alpha's sound is gorgeous--richly detailed yet not at the expense of a naturally illusionistic acoustic setting. Guerber's notes are a joy to read, and as usual, Alpha's presentation is first class. Given the caliber of these performances, perhaps Guerber will inspire others to play and listen to this repertoire much as Munrow did before him.
--John Greene, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Missa "Se la face ay pale" by Guillaume Dufay
Diabolus in Musica
Written: 15th Century; France
Date of Recording: 09/2003
Venue: Collégiale St Martin de Champeaux,France
Length: 38 Minutes 15 Secs.
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