Notes and Editorial Reviews
Recent attention to Thomas Crecquillon (c. 1505–c. 1557) may be credited to the appearance of the Complete Works beginning in 1998. Recorded songs (29:1) as well as sacred music (25:4, 26: 5) can now be supplemented by another disc with a remarkably unified program centered on the death of Isabella of Portugal, the beloved wife of Emperor Charles V, in 1539. For the next decade, Crecquillon would be Charles’s favorite composer at court. Mort m’a privé (“Death has deprived me)” is a text, possibly written by Charles himself, that Crecquillon set twice in memory of the empress, as recorded here. In the way the music is constructed, the five-voice setting represents Charles, the four-voice setting Isabella, with subtle thematic
connections between the two pieces. The parody Mass is based on the five-voice setting but uses the other as well in similarly subtle connections. Themes from the other two songs on this disc are also used, Oeil esgaré in the Kyrie and Le monde est tel in the Agnus Dei, in each case the borrowed melody relating the corresponding text of the song to the place where it is used in the Mass. This highly intellectual feat may have been noticeable to the singers, but perhaps not to most listeners.
Three other motets are loosely related to the theme of death because Cur Fernande pater memorializes Charles’s niece who became queen of Poland, while Praemia pro validis and Caesaris auspiciis honor generals who served the emperor. That leaves only Congratulamini mihi, celebrating the resurrection of Christ, the mystery that gave meaning to all these prayers for the deceased. All of this is brought to life by a mixed vocal ensemble of 15 voices that is new to this label. They appeared at the Flanders Festival last year following the recording. Stephen Rice is a young musicologist who is focusing his work on mid-16th-century sacred music. Apart from the group’s accomplished vocal work, the strong point of this disc is the profound understanding that is conveyed in the notes by Martin Ham. We can expect more of this repertoire from the group. But don’t wait to get this one, for it is neatly organized and beautifully sung.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber
Works on This Recording
Missa "Mort m'a privé" by Thomas Crecquillon
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