sábado, 15 de diciembre de 2012

The Choir Project al día [15-XII-2012]

Philippe de Monte [1521-1603]: Missa Ultimi miei sospiri a 6.
Cinquecento [Renaissance Vokal].
Mass about Madrigal, sacred about secular...

    For Stephen Rice
"Philippe de Monte was one of the most extraordinarily prolific composers of the Renaissance, perhaps of all time. Certainly in the madrigal genre he outstripped all competition, with no fewer than thirty-four books published between 1554 and his death in 1603, containing over a thousand individual pieces. While his sacred output is less voluminous, it is nonetheless impressive, with thirty-eight Mass settings, approximately 250 motets, and 144 madrigali spirituali.

    Born in 1521, Monte appears to have been a choirboy at the church of St Rombout in Mechelen. He worked in Italy for several periods, including a spell as music tutor to the Pinelli banking family in Naples. In the 1550s he was associated with the chapel of Philip II of Spain, visiting England in that capacity for the wedding of Philip to Mary Tudor; his meeting with William Byrd on that occasion probably led to an exchange of eight-part motets between the two composers in which they bemoaned the fate of Catholics in England (Monte: Super flumina Babylonis; Byrd: Quomodo cantabimus). But it is for his thirty-five-year tenure of the post of Kapellmeister at the Austrian Habsburg court that Monte is best known. Employed by Emperor Maximilian II in 1567, he remained in Habsburg service for the rest of his life, despite a change of emperor (Rudolf II ascended the throne in 1576) and his own requests from 1578 onwards for permission to retire. His work is described in Grove’s Dictionary as ‘unfold[ing] in unhurried, sometimes quite melismatic lines, [with] little evidence of post-Tridentine concerns about textual clarity’. As will become apparent from this recording, such a broad statement covers considerable variety in techniques and in atmosphere.

    The madrigal Ultimi miei sospiri by Philippe Verdelot is among the finest and best-known secular pieces of the earlier part of the sixteenth century. As one of the early pioneers of the madrigal, Verdelot was also among the first to compose examples of the genre for as many as six parts, a texture which offers significant opportunities for contrast between high and low groups of voices, or other combinations. Such techniques form a major part of the text-setting strategy of this generation of madrigalists, with the text-obscuring properties of imitative counterpoint offset by the chance to re-hear the same words sung by another group of voices. Although madrigals of the 1520s do not approach the levels of chromaticism seen later in the century, the idiom is nonetheless highly expressive, due to these composers’ command of textual accent (impressively, since the majority of them, including Verdelot, were not native Italian speakers), and of tessitura. An instance of the latter is found in Ultimi miei sospiri at ‘Dite, o beltà infinita’ (‘Speak, O infinite beauty’) where the change of voice from narrative to interlocution is marked with a new entry on the highest pitch yet heard. Verdelot’s artistry is again observable towards the end of the piece where the long notes of ‘Tornat’in me’ (‘return to me’) appear to be guiding the music towards a peaceful ending, but a final effort at energetic movement is made on ‘ch’io non vorrò morire’, as the narrator rages against the dying of the light.

    Such recognizable musical characteristics made Verdelot’s madrigals (and indeed motets) eminently suitable models for the imitation Mass genre that dominated the later sixteenth century. As formulated by the theorist Pietro Cerone, writing in 1613, the essence of this technique is to transplant sections of polyphony into crucial moments of one’s Mass setting, more or less in the order that they appear in the model. This represents only part of the spectrum of borrowing techniques used in the century preceding Cerone’s remark: thematic transformation, juxtaposition of polyphonic sections in quite different ways, recomposition of imitative counterpoint, all found their place in the sixteenth-century imitation Mass. Monte’s technique in his Missa Ultimi miei sospiri does however resemble that described by the theorist: each Mass movement begins with a version of the madrigal’s opening, albeit slightly varied. Elsewhere he is relatively sparing in the use of borrowed material: examples include Domine Deus (‘Lord God’) in the Gloria, which adapts ‘Dal tuo fedel’’ (‘that your faithful one’) from the madrigal, and per quem omnia facta sunt (‘through him all things were made’) in the Credo, taking the phrase ‘Gitene ratt’in ciel’’ (‘go swiftly to heaven’). This latter phrase is also recast in triple time to form the basis of the Osanna.

    In common with many of his contemporaries, Monte divides his Mass movements into formal subsections. The Et incarnatus section of the Credo is one example: here the solemnity of the words is underlined by a full, slow chordal texture, followed by a brief upper-voice section for the Crucifixus. Another division separates the Christological section of the Credo with that dealing with the Holy Spirit and the Church: the latter is notable for its syncopated figures, a compositional device that adds to the vigour of this largely joyful final section. It also injects a certain madrigalian feeling to the movement, though such syncopation is in fact absent from Verdelot’s model."

    In my opinion, this a fantastis Mass satting about a italian Madrigal. I think the style of Monte and Verdelot is relatively distant, but I think the work he does in this Mass is very careful with the original Madrigal.
The performance is woderfull: crystalline, wonderful pitch, fantastic sound, good balance, really expressive... to complete an album that is essential for all Renaissance polyphony fans.

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