In 1970, I had records of only the most familiar 15th-century composers when I ventured into the realm of forgotten names and bought Kees Otten’s disc (Electrola 1C 063-24011) containing this Mass by Arnold de Lantins along with an instrumental motet by Hugo de Lantins and six works of Dufay. The Mass is found in the celebrated manuscript Bologna Q15, dating to the 1420s, so it would be an early example of the Mass cycle, further indicated by its three-voice texture. This is the first recording of the Mass since that premiere, and it is part of a complete Mass that includes chant Propers as well as epistle, gospel, and preface. Brassart and Cesaris are added as bookends, with another Brassart motet after the gradual and Lantins’s motetRead more after the offertory. This last work fits well here, because each movement of the Mass refers to it. The only reason for the name that has been given to the Mass (rather than “Missa O pulcherrima”) is the insertion of the trope “Verbum incarnatum” in the Kyrie.
As expected, Otten’s heavy instrumental accompaniment has yielded to a discreet use of a pair of trumpets, but otherwise there is a similarity of tempos and other aspects of the two performances. Where Otten used solo voices on the two upper parts, Snellings uses three voices to a part, still using the instruments on the lowest line. The new version does use period-specific pronunciation. The more obvious difference between the two discs is situating the Mass movements within the liturgical framework. Clari Cantuli is a small children’s choir that sings the chant propers in octaves with the men, using contemporary chant editions.
The three composers all came from the territory of Liège, a large area centered in what is now eastern Belgium that was governed by the bishop (as were many other ecclesiastical principalities, most famously Salzburg), so the whole production focuses on the musical traditions of that area. Arnold, as we know, ended his days in Rome as a member of the papal chapel with Dufay in 1431, and his death the following year is indicated by someone else’s applying for his ecclesiastical benefice (a position that supplied income). This disc is a valuable addition to the many liturgical reconstructions that give us a close look at a specific time and place in the medieval and Renaissance eras. It may be noted that an anonymous motet, O virgo sacra, is listed on the cover but not performed, apparently replaced by the second Brassart motet. Well worth searching out.