miércoles, 23 de julio de 2014

The Choir Project al día | 19-VII-2014

Pierre de la Rue [c. 1452-1518]: Gloria, Missa De septem doloribus.
Capilla Flamenca | Dirk Snellings.
Tribute to amazing maestro.

  Honey Meconi wrote about Pierre de la Rue:
«I. Life.

  The son of Jehan de la Rue and Gertrud de la Haye, La Rue was almost certainly born in Tournai and educated in the city cathedral’s maîtrise. He is first mentioned, as an adult professional singer, in the records of the cathedral of Ste Gudule in Brussels for 1469/70. This reference, together with the fact that his mother survived him, suggests a birthdate about 1452. He next appears at the Jacobskerk, Ghent, in the account book for 1471/2; other early employment was at Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk, Nieuwpoort (1472/3 to before 1477/8), the church of St Ode (location and date undetermined), an unidentified institution in Cologne (to 1489) and possibly Cambrai Cathedral. The ‘Misser Piero delapiazza’ in Siena thought by Staehelin to be La Rue refers to another musician; so far no evidence places the composer in Italy, making him one of the few major composers of his time not to visit there.

 La Rue left Cologne in 1489 for employment at the Confraternity of Our Lady in ’s-Hertogenbosch, where he stayed until 1492. In November of that year, after a gap of up to nine months unaccounted for, he joined the Habsburg-Burgundian chapel, where he was to spend the rest of his professional life; claims as to earlier court associations are based on misreadings of the documents. He served each successive ruler of the court beginning with Maximilian and travelled extensively in the court entourage. Under Maximilian’s son Philip the Fair he made two trips to Spain, the first from 1501 to 1503 (through France to Spain, then back north by way of Habsburg lands) and the second by sea in 1506; bad weather and shipwreck forced a three-month stay in England at the court of Henry VII. Though many chapel members left Spain upon Philip’s death in September 1506, La Rue and others remained there in the service of Juana, Philip’s widow. After power was wrested from Juana in 1508 La Rue returned north, where in the previous year Philip’s sister Marguerite of Austria had assumed the regency of the Low Countries for her young nephew, the future Charles V. In 1516, a year after Charles came of age, La Rue retired to Kortrijk, possibly to avoid another trip to Spain. He drew up his will on 16 June of the same year and died there in 1518.

 Despite considerable gaps in the early years, La Rue’s life is thus unusually well-documented and for the most part demonstrates a continual search for better-paid and more prestigious employment, culminating in his membership in one of the largest and most illustrious musical institutions of the time. His longevity at the court is in contrast to the peripatetic lives of his major contemporaries, but certainly the richness of the musical life (colleagues at various times included Agricola, Weerbeke, de Orto, Champion and Divitis) as well as the professional security were reasons to remain. Evidently La Rue gradually assumed a quasi-official status as court composer and probably influenced the compilation of the many musical manuscripts emanating from the court scriptorium, possibly even sometimes acting as scribe. He was rewarded by valuable prebends at St Aubain, Namur, Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk, Kortrijk (where he ultimately retired), Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk, Dendermonde, and St Faraïlde (Sente Verle), Ghent; with the added income from the prebend at St Ode, received before he joined the court, he died a wealthy man.

II. Works.
(i) Sources and chronology.

 Sources for La Rue’s music began appearing in the late 15th century and continued until 1617. His lengthy association with the Habsburg-Burgundian court resulted in the transmission of his music throughout Europe, not only through the court’s many travels but also through the extensive series of manuscripts prepared by the scriptorium associated with the court. More than 50 such manuscripts survive today, prepared between the late 15th century and 1534 when the principal scribe Pierre Alamire retired. La Rue is by far the best-represented composer in this complex (see Kellman); five manuscripts are exclusively devoted to his works, with another five each containing only a single work by another composer. His music dominates B-Br 228 and plays a significant role in I-Fc 2439 (two major court chansonniers). As a result we have a series of authenticated works unique for a major composerof his generation; problems of authorship are less pressing than for his contemporaries, though some still remain. In addition, the court was not the only place where La Rue’s music was cultivated; many manuscripts prepared elsewhere (especially Germany), as well as numerous prints beginning with the Odhecaton, disseminated his compositions across the continent. Petrucci devoted one of his earliest mass prints (1503) to La Rue and included his masses and a motet in several anthologies, while Antico, Giunta, Petreius and Formschneider also published complete masses.

 Despite the excellent source situation for La Rue’s music, a chronology remains difficult to construct; firm dates of composition exist for very few pieces. By and large his music seems to follow the general trends of the time – masses in earlier sources are more likely to progress in each movement from perfect to imperfect tempus, for example – but stylistic considerations alone are insufficient to place each work. One might expect the six-voice Credo to be a late work, for example, yet it appears in one of the earliest manuscripts to transmit his music.

  Staehelin’s suggestion that La Rue composed only during the last 20 or so years of his life seems unlikely in view of the revised birth-date, which makes him about 40 at the time of his court recruitment. But it remains possible that most of what survives dates from his court years; certain aspects of his output suggest a slightly later period of composition than the works of his contemporaries: the number of pieces – especially masses – for more than four voices, the relatively limited use of strict cantus-firmus procedure or fixed forms, the interest in parody. At the same time his intense interest in Marian-inspired works may stem initially from his employment at the Marian brotherhood in ’s-Hertogenbosch.

(ii) Masses and mass movements.

  La Rue was one of the most prolific mass composers of his generation. 29 of his masses circulated with ascriptions in Habsburg-Burgundian manuscripts; another work, Missa Jesum liate, was in a now-lost manuscript belonging to Philip II. Missa Sancta dei genitrix, despite a garbled attribution in its sole court source, is surely La Rue’s as well. Two other masses, Missa L’homme armé (ii) and Missa sine nomine (ii), are anonymous in their sources (manuscripts likewise from the court scriptorium) but are usually considered to be La Rue’s. The anonymous Missa de septem doloribus for four voices (also in a Habsburg-Burgundian manuscript), on the other hand, seems unlikely to be genuine. This leaves undecided only the Missa Fortuna desperata attributed to ‘Periquin’ in its unique source.

  In contrast to his contemporaries, La Rue drew relatively little on secular models for his masses, using only Urrede’s villancico Nunca fué pena mayor, his own chansons Tous les regretz and Incessament mon pauvre cueur lamente, the popular melodies L’homme armé and Tandernaken, possibly a German tune (in Missa Almana), and perhaps the Italian song Fortuna desperata. More often he turned to chant models, a number of which remain unidentified. In one unusual composition, the Missa de Sancto Job, the chants are drawn from their appearance in Pipelare’s Missa Floruit egregius rather than from original sources (see Bloxam, 1991). La Rue used the motet Ave sanctissima Maria (probably his own) as the basis for one work, and a few masses (the Sine nomine works and the canonic Missa O salutaris hostia) appear to be completely free. Particularly striking is his practice in certain masses of quoting from a completely separate work at a single point in the cycle: the final Agnus Dei of Missa Ave sanctissima Maria uses an unidentified O dulcis amica Dei melody, the Credo of Missa Sancta dei genitrix includes part of the L’homme armé tune, the second Osanna of the five-voice Missa de septem doloribus quotes the superius of the concluding phrase of Josquin’s Ave Maria, and the final Agnus Dei of Missa L’homme armé (i) cites the popular song Tant que nostre argent dura. In a related vein, the Pleni of Missa de sancta cruce owes much to the second Agnus Dei of Josquin’s Missa L’ami baudichon. La Rue’s Missa de Beata Virgine, Missa de feria, Missa de Sancto Job, Missa de septem doloribus, Missa Pascale and Requiem Mass all draw on multiple chants, making him one of the composers most sympathetic to this practice. Finally, in part because he used polyphonic head-motifs in some masses, several scholars have suggested unidentified polyphonic models for some works (e.g. Missa Alleluia).

  La Rue wrote two ostinato masses, Missa Cum iocunditate and Missa Sancta dei genitrix, and two that are completely canonic: Missa O salutaris hostia, in which a single notated voice generates three others, and Missa Ave sanctissima Maria, whose six voices are generated by three two-voice canons as in the motet on which it is based. In the other masses La Rue rarely followed strict cantus-firmus procedure, preferring instead to embellish his models and integrate the borrowed material throughout the texture, making him of singular importance in the history of the paraphrase mass. He is also a composer of crucial significance in the early parody or ‘imitation’ mass. Both his Missa Nuncqua fué pena mayor (a cantus-firmus mass with extensive ancillary borrowings from the polyphonic model) and his eight-voice Credo Angeli archangeli (based on Isaac’s six-voice motet) point the way towards the full-fledged parody technique he employed in three masses, Missa Tous les regretz, Missa Incessament mon pauvre cueur lamente, and Missa Ave sanctissima Maria. These masses are noteworthy not only because two of them use secular models but also because La Rue turned exclusively to his own pieces as sources for inspiration. Further, they solve a series of compositional problems of increasing difficulty: Missa Tous les regretz, for four voices, is based on a straightforward rondeau cinquain; Missa Incessament, for five voices, has a two-voice canon as its foundation throughout, as does its model; Missa Ave sanctissima Maria, for six voices, is completely canonic, its triple canons matching those of its model. La Rue is alone among his contemporaries in displaying so much interest in this newest type of mass.

  La Rue typically wrote for equal voices and constantly varied his texture within individual movements. Like Josquin, he was extremely fond of paired voices, and used them frequently to provide contrast and lighten the texture. He made use of both homophonic sections and non-imitative polyphony, but imitative writing is by far the most common texture, with melodic entries occurring at times on unusual intervals. He is widely recognized for his contrapuntal mastery, and his masses demonstrate numerous instances of strict canonic writing. In addition to the two completely canonic works cited above, three others are based on a structural foundation of two voices in canon: Missa de feria, Missa Incessament, and Missa L’homme armé (ii). Five more masses contain one or more canon-based or totally canonic sections. Perhaps the most interesting of this last group are the canons found in Missa L’homme armé (i), where each of the three sections of the Kyrie has two voices in a mensuration canon, and where the second Agnus Dei is a mensuration canon in which all four voices are derived from one – in all probability La Rue was attempting to surpass the second Agnus Dei of Josquin’s Missa L’homme armé super voces musicales.

  La Rue’s love of variety is also evident in his treatment of melodic material, both borrowed material and that of his own invention. Varied repetition is the norm; the constantly changing rhythms of the ostinato in Missa Cum iocunditate are a good example of his reluctance to use exact repetition. La Rue was also fond of melodies that keep circling gracefully back to the same pitch, approaching it in continually shifting ways. He frequently played with motifs that thoroughly explore a limited range in this manner, often using syncopated rhythms. Motifs are often inspired by specific intervals that then pervade the melody, and individual lines are at times composed of a string of related ideas. These types of writing provide a subtle yet satisfying sense of unification. For contrast La Rue sometimes wrote wide-ranging lines, melodies employing large leaps, and phrases that immediately repeat themselves an octave higher. Other devices found in his music are sequences, ostinati (especially in the lowest voice) and passages in parallel 3rds or 6ths.

  Two Kyries and five independent Credos are usually considered La Rue’s (the five-voice Kyrie is anonymous in its two sources, both from the court, but has never been seriously questioned). Two of these movements are evidently free, while three draw on liturgically appropriate chant (one in a Credo de villagiis). Another Credo uses the monophonic song L’amour du moy, freely treated, while the extended eight-voice Credo Angeli archangeli borrows from Isaac’s motet both polyphonically and monophonically (the tenor of Binchois’ Comme femme as used by Isaac). The six-voice Credo, evidently an early work, is La Rue’s only composition for so many voices that does not employ canon.

3. Reputation and significance.

  La Rue was cited in Molinet’s famous déploration on the death of Ockeghem, Nymphes des bois (set by Josquin), and appeared regularly thereafter in literary and theoretical lists of noteworthy composers, including the foreword to Monteverdi’s fifth book of madrigals. Praised by Glarean, Martin Luther, Zarlino and many others, his music enjoyed a special vogue in Germany after his death, prompting misattributions similar to those for Josquin, if not so extensive. Modern scholars have noted his significance for more than two centuries – Burney published the Benedictus from Missa de Beata Virgine – yet the lack of a complete critical edition has severely hindered attempts to evaluate and understand La Rue’s work as well as its influence on subsequent composers. He is perhaps best known as a composer of canons, and certainly the frequency of strict canon in his output is surpassed only by Josquin among composers of his generation. Yet there is considerably more to his music. His tendency to paraphrase and integrate melodic lines, whether original or borrowed, creates tightly unified compositions; his mastery of textural variety generates continual aural interest. Although usually considered a composer only peripherally concerned with textual meaning, La Rue wrote several works that display considerable rhetorical power, including Pourquoy non and Considera Israel; in the latter work the switch to a series of repeated breves in the top voice for the words ‘non sunt divisi’ is but one of several examples of clear word-painting in his music. Further, the use of homophonic and syllabic sections to emphasize specific phrases is frequent in his compositions.

  La Rue expanded the contemporary sound-world in several significant ways. He used signed accidentals to a greater degree than his contemporaries, going as far as D in Pourquoy non and G in Absalon fili mi, where this employment of flats is one argument in favour of his authorship. He also employed extremely low ranges more frequently than any contemporary or predecessor. About two-thirds of the masses extend below the gamut, eleven of these to E, D, C, or even B; similar instances of writing for extremely low voices occur in both the motets and chansons. La Rue also had a distinctive style of dissonance and harmonic relations, with a high tolerance for parallel perfect intervals and casual dissonances. While certain of his pieces seem to lack a coherent tonal plan, others display striking and clearly intentional harmonic shifts. Despite differences in style, La Rue’s music was probably most strongly influenced by that of Josquin, which he certainly knew; he may even have met the composer himself during the court’s travels. In any event, there are curious parallels between the works of the two that, combined with La Rue’s borrowings from Josquin, suggest that La Rue felt a rivalry even if Josquin did not.

  Several of La Rue’s compositions served as models for his contemporaries and successors, and according to one early source he was even considered (probably erroneously) the composer of the famous and much-borrowed Een vrolic wesen. His single authenticated Flemish work, Mijn hert, inspired a group of derivative settings, and the second section of Sancta Maria virgo was reworked by Craen in Ecce video. Gascongne used both Mijn hert and Pourquoy non as models for parody Masses, while La Rue’s Missa de feria may have inspired Févin’s. Other instances of direct borrowing may come to light as La Rue’s work becomes better known. A more general influence will probably be found in the succeeding generation of northern composers, including Gombert, Richafort and Manchicourt.

  His significance for now thus rests on the quantity, type and quality of his compositions as well as a number of historic firsts. Among his peers, only Josquin, Isaac and Mouton surpassed him in sheer number of works. Taken as a whole, his output presents a liturgical completeness of a kind unequalled among his contemporaries: a set of masses for the most important Marian feasts, another series of miscellaneous Marian masses, masses for the dead, the blessed sacrament, the holy cross, Christmas, Easter and daily use, a complete Magnificat cycle and settings of three of the four most important Marian antiphons, including an astonishing six versions of Salve regina. His Requiem Mass is among the earliest polyphonic treatments to survive, his Magnificat cycle was apparently the first ever composed, his Missa Ave sanctissima Maria is possibly the earliest six-voice mass and certainly the first wholly canonic one, and he was a pioneer in writing full-fledged parody masses. He is important as well in the history of the paraphrase mass and the turn-of-the century chanson. In respect of the quality and inventiveness of his music, he was second only to Josquin among the composers of his generation.»

  Unfortunely, the past 15 of july, Dirk Snellings said goodbye. On of the most important singers, musicologists and conductors of Renaissance polyphony in XXth ad XXIth centuries, he was the essence of Capilla Flemenca, one of the best vocal ensembles in the world ever. 

 Requiescat in pace, maestro, and thanks, always, for years and years of incredible music.

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