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Anonymous - Messe de Tournai, XIVe siècle - Ensemble Organum, Marcel Pérès (1990) {Harmonia Mundi HMA 1951353 rel 2006}

Posted By: ruskaval
Anonymous - Messe de Tournai, XIVe siècle - Ensemble Organum, Marcel Pérès (1990) {Harmonia Mundi HMA 1951353 rel 2006}

Anonymous - Messe de Tournai, XIVe siècle - Ensemble Organum, Marcel Pérès (1990) {Harmonia Mundi HMA 1951353 rel 2006}
XLD rip (secure mode) | FLAC (tracks)+CUE+LOG -> 229 Mb | MP3 @320 -> 127 Mb
Full Artwork @ 600 dpi (jpg) -> 56 Mb | 5% repair rar
© 1990, 2006 Harmonia Mundi | HMA 1951353
Classical / Medieval / Early Music / Polyphony / Sacred

This is an all-male vocal recording, including chant (Propers) and polyphony (Ordinary). The Mass of Tournai is early 14th century, a decade or so before that of Machaut. Some have argued that it does not show a unified design, and so Machaut's setting is the first unified mass cycle. The respective unities are not clear - at most it is a matter of degree - although it is not known whether this mass was composed by one composer or many. At any rate, it is the first mass cycle declared as such. The concluding Ite missa est leads into a true motet, with different texts in the two upper voices.
The Flemish Messe de Tournai is the earliest complete polyphonic mass setting in existence. It is set for three voices and is found in a manuscript in the archives of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in the Belgian city of Tournai; its shelfmark is B-Tc Bibliotheque Capitulaire 476. The Messe de Tournai was composed, or rather, compiled in 1325 at the earliest, when the choir in Tournai Cathedral was completed, and at the latest 1330. That makes it a little earlier than other extended fourteenth century mass settings that exist in Toulouse, Barcelona, and Sorbonne; it consists of a Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and an added motet, "Ite missa est." Of these, the Kyrie, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei are given in the same handwriting and are known in no other source. These sections are largely set in so-called "conductus style," a fauxbourdon-esque note-against-note holdover from the Ars Antiqua that is limited in range and in its approach to rhythm. The Gloria, Credo, and motet "Ite missa est" are in a different hand, and the Credo is found in manuscripts in Spain and the south of France, suggesting that the composition may have originated there. "Ite missa est" contains a triplum set to a secular text in a local dialect, suggesting that this piece, and perhaps the whole work, may have had some relation to a pageant on the Annunciation given in Tournai from about 1231. "Ite missa est" is the most well traveled of any movement from the Messe de Tournai, turning up in a manuscript fragment in Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland).
Modern people imagine that spiritual seekers, usually adult, have always turned away from the world to seek individual realization/redemption in the monastic life, in solitude and silence and self-discipline. This may be the case now, and it may have been so since the late Renaissance. In the heyday of monasticism in Europe, however – in the 12th-14th Centuries when the great monasteries were the capitals of European science, agriculture, technology, and finance as well as learning – the monastic life was not about individual salvation. Built sometimes in "waste" lands, the great monasteries were never as isolated from society as we may imagine. They depended fully on their surrounding societies for donations of support in land and money, for recruitment of personnel via oblation, for markets for their products, for protection from violence, and for legal and ecclesiastical services. In turn, the societies around were dependent on the monasteries for services, and not just rites and burials; the singing monks had the specific role in society of seeking God's grace for everyone, of interceding with God on behalf of those who specialized in other tasks. Above all, the monks were communitarian; they ate together, slept in close proximity, did their little routines together, and above all SANG together, for hours of every living day. Fully tonsured monks sang the entire book of psalms, with seasonally specific plainchants, at the liturgical Hours; they all sang, and they mostly sang in unison from memory. Thus it seems almost inevitable that their greatest cultural invention was polyphonic music, and it was a unique invention. No other society in the world, even including secular Medieval society, has ever independently invented polyphony. Lots of cultures have heterophonic music, but polyphony is something special, when two or more voices sing/play melodic material at the same time though different, and when those voices mesh together in mathematically proportionate harmonies and rhythms. By the 15th Century, Europe was 1000 years ahead of any other society in musical sophistication; one element of that sophistication was precise mensural notation, which developed in tandem with polyphony, as a necessary support.

It takes enormous self-abnegation, enormous inter-communion, to sing polyphony. It's the least individual act conceivable.

The Messe de Tournai is considered the oldest surviving complete polyphonic mass. It was re-discovered in a well-worn chant book in Tournai Cathedral in 1862, and has been dated by scholars to the second quarter of the 14th C. The parchment on which it was written shows the kind of wear that came from actual use for liturgical occasions. The chant material in the manuscript is chiefly Marian, so the mass was most likely performed in a side chapel of the cathedral devoted to the Cult of the Virgin. It's unlikely that the mass was composed by a single person; rather it consists of stratifications of overlay, tropes (extensions) of pre-existing musical material, and standard-practice harmonizations based on habits of improvization. The separate movement of the mass per se are very different in structure and style, with the Kyrie seeming the most archaic and the Ita Missa Est (which later generations omitted from polyphonic settings) seeming the most modern. This mass stands at the very base of all European and American music for the rest of the millennium. It's curious to think that it will sound remarkably "foreign" to most modern first-time listeners.

More than half of the music on this CD is not the fixed elements of the mass at all, but rather introits, graduels, offertoire, communion, etc. - the appropriate chants of the liturgical calendar. Thus the mass is embedded in and highlighted by plainchant, solo and unison singing. The communion chant performed here includes singing by the choir against long drone-like notes sung by other members of the choir; such singing over a "tenor" has to be understood as the very first step toward real polyphony. There are, of course, no instruments.

Ensemble Organum is whomever Marcel Peres chooses to hire for a given performance. For this disk, Peres chose some extremely beautiful voices. The plainchant recorded here is among the finest I've ever heard, with perfect unity of expression and tuning. Peres has been accused of "orientalizing" the chant for exotic effect, but the accusation doesn't apply this time. I know this manuscript in facsimile very well, and I'd vouch for Peres's musical decisions being as "authentic" as any that could be made. The polyphonic singing is bold and exhuberant. All male voices, obviously: mixed choruses never sang Medieval liturgy. I imagine that improvised polyphony first sprang from human exhuberance and the "sinful" pride of the better singers in the monastery. Theologians might justify such exhuberance as serving God's secret purposes, but in fact at the beginning of the 14th C, Pope John XXII tried to suppress such innovations and extravagances. Luckily he failed.

Performers

Ensemble Organum


Tenor: Josep Benet, Patrick Aubailly, Frédéric Richard
Baritone: Josep Cabré, Marcel Pérès
Bass: Malcolm Bothwell, Antoine Sicot

dir. Marcel Pérès

Recorded September 1990, Saintes, Abbaye-aux-Dames

Works on This Recording

Anonymous - Messe de Tournai, XIVe siècle - Ensemble Organum, Marcel Pérès (1990) {Harmonia Mundi HMA 1951353 rel 2006}


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Anonymous - Messe de Tournai, XIVe siècle - Ensemble Organum, Marcel Pérès (1990) {Harmonia Mundi HMA 1951353 rel 2006}

Anonymous - Messe de Tournai, XIVe siècle - Ensemble Organum, Marcel Pérès (1990) {Harmonia Mundi HMA 1951353 rel 2006}



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