sábado, 8 de diciembre de 2012

The Choir Project al día [08-XII-2012]

Dominique Phinot [c.1510-b.1561]: Pater peccavi a 5.
The Brabant Ensemble - Stephen Rice.
The talent of the unknowns.

   Roger Jacob & Stephen Rice think about this composer and his works:
"That this recording is the first to concentrate on the sacred music of Dominique Phinot is a reminder that a significant amount of music composed in the early sixteenth century continues to be terra incognita to present-day audiences. Moreover, our knowledge of the lives and careers of composers at this time is often based upon little more than fragmentary evidence. Information about Phinot’s career, for instance, is confined to a handful of documents from the 1540s and 1550s which indicate that he was a musician in the service of Duke Guidobaldo II of Urbino. A memorandum of 1544 records that he was proposed by the Duke for the post of cantor (singer or choirmaster) at the cathedral in Pesaro.

   Since all of Phinot’s works received their first printings during the period 1538–1555, the composer is likely to have been in his late twenties by the first date, in which case he would have been born around 1510. From Girolamo Cardano’s essay Theonoston, which implies that Phinot was executed for homosexual practices, we learn that his death occurred before 1561.

   Phinot’s output consists of over a hundred motets, two Masses, and settings of Vesper Psalms and the Magnificat, as well as two books of French chansons and two Italian madrigals. The acclaim with which his sacred compositions were received is evident both in the frequency of their publications as well as in the writings of his contemporaries. He was renowned as a master of imitative polyphonic writing, a trait which he shares with Gombert, Clemens non Papa, Willaert, and others of that generation who were the successors of Josquin Desprez. Indeed, the theorist Hermann Finck in 1556 placed Phinot behind only Gombert, Clemens, and Crecquillon (and ahead of Willaert) in a list of composers he described as ‘foremost, most excellent, subtlest and, in my judgement, to be imitated’.

   The publication in Lyons during 1547–8 of two collections of Phinot’s motets secured his reputation for the rest of the century and beyond. Not only do the five-voice motets in the Liber primus mutetarum confirm his outstanding polyphonic skills but the Liber secundus contains five eight-voice works which are of considerable historical importance. The latter are unique in the mid-sixteenth century in their treatment of double-choir dialogue, a technique in which two four-part ensembles normally alternate thematically related phrases of varying lengths. These works, of which four are included in this recording, are the antecedents of the resplendent Venetian polychoral tradition of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

   In his eight-voice sacred works Phinot builds upon those essential features of double-choir technique which first appeared in the liturgical music of northern Italy, mainly in the Veneto, during the early decades of the sixteenth century. Psalms and canticles, which had for long been associated with ritual antiphonal performance, frequently inspire double-choir settings by composers such as Ruffino d’Assisi (fl1510–1532) and Francesco Santacroce (1488–1556), who already exploit varied lengths of choral exchange, contrasts of high and low register between ensembles, and chordal writing, in order to create genuine double-choir dialogue.

   One of the most controversial theories surrounding the performance of Renaissance polyphony is that of the so-called ‘secret chromatic art’. First proposed by the scholar Edward Lowinsky (1908–1985) in relation to motets by Jacob Clemens non Papa, it holds that certain pieces could be performed with the addition of numerous accidental flats, sometimes leading to the entire piece ending a semitone lower than it began through a process of transposition. Lowinsky hypothesized that this related to crypto-Protestant significance in the music: Clemens’s mysterious nickname ‘non Papa’ would in this case indicate anti-Papal leanings—though more recent research suggests that Clemens was so called for much more prosaic reasons to do with his debauched lifestyle. Whatever the background to this phenomenon, it is certainly the case that in several pieces of this period, if the rules of musica ficta are followed as most likely would have happened in performance from separate partbooks, one flat after another appears in the music and leads to a downward spiral. One such example is Phinot’s Pater peccavi, a motet based on the story of the prodigal son.

   The first half of the motet proceeds in a contrapuntally unproblematic way; only when the son begins to describe his miserable circumstances (hic fame pereo) does the modulation begin, achieving the entire shift in an extraordinary passage a little over half a minute long (3'45" to 4'20"). Having so to speak ‘found his feet’ in the new tonality the son resolves to go back to his father to beg forgiveness (Surgam et ibo), but the pain of his humiliation is underlined by the highly expressive downward sequence of suspensions (et dicam ei) before the plea ‘Make me as one of your servants’ (Fac me sicut unum ex mercenariis tuis) returns in a mood of resignation. Such a direct narrative explanation may seem out of place for a motet published as early as 1538; yet the remarkable effect both of the ‘secret chromatic’ spiral and the later suspension passage suggests just such an interpretation despite the early date."

   For me, this a wonderful album and the only monographic recording on the works of Phinot -I think-, an excellent reason to celebrate this.
The performance is really great, specially female voices -the Ashby sisters are absolutely amazing-.
This music will surprise many by its immense quality, I'm sure.

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