CD Reviews | CTD (Briefly Noted) | JFL (Dip Your Ears) | DVD Reviews


Briefly Noted: Mouton Mass and Motets (CD of the Month)

available at Amazon
Jean Mouton, Missa Faulte d'argent / Motets, Brabant Ensemble, Stephen Rice

(released on July 1, 2022)
Hyperion CDA68385 | 72'53"

available at Amazon
Jean Mouton, Missa Tu es Petrus / Motets, Brabant Ensemble, Stephen Rice
Jean Mouton (c. 1459-1522) is not unknown among early music ensembles, with a number of fine recordings out there by the Tallis Scholars, among others. He was prolific enough, however, that all but one of the pieces on this second disc of the composer's choral music from the Brabant Ensemble are receiving their first recordings. Mouton's style is intricately contrapuntal, drawing comparison to the music of Josquin Desprez, with whom he was roughly contemporary.

For example, the two six-voice motets included in this recording are both notated in a single source in the Vatican Library (MS Capp. Sist. 38), one after another, for the use of the papal choir. The first of them, Confitemini domino, combines four voices in points of imitation on the outer text, proper to Easter. These unfold over a clever puzzle canon that enters later, set to a text from the Te Deum ("Per singulos dies benedicimus te"). The canon is notated in a single voice with the inscription "Preibis parare viam meam" as the only clue to how to realize it. Like St. John the Baptist, who was to prepare the way for Christ, the comes voice (follower) is supposed to enter first, followed by the dux (leader), an unexpected inversion of the normal canon process.

The Brabant Ensemble, a mixed choir of just ten voices, recorded these beautiful tracks in April 2021 in the Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Loughton, Essex. (Three of the Ashby sisters, familiar from their work with Stile Antico, populate the upper two sections.) Their conductor, Stephen Rice, has made some unusual choices in the editing of the sources, as in the conclusion of the motet discussed above, where some musica ficta additions create clashing cross relations and lead to a final chord modified to major with a raised third. The music editions, by Mick Swithinbank with some revisions by Rice and Mouton scholar Thomas MacCracken (editor of the composer's complete works), are available online in some cases.

This Mass paraphrases material from Josquin's secular chanson Faulte d'argent, with its text complaining of poverty and the complications it creates for one's love life. As Rice notes in his expert booklet essay, we should not be shocked by this juxtaposition of sacred and secular: Jean Richafort even used material from this chanson for his six-part setting of the Requiem Mass. The texture is limited to four voices, but sections in two or three voices add variety throughout. As expected of Mouton, the contrapuntal complexity is dense, particularly in the extended Agnus dei.

No comments: