Machaut - Cape

Messe de Nostre Dame
Machaut / Dufay - 5 Sacred Songs
Pro Musica Antiqua - Safford Cape
Archiv Codex Series 453 162


  1. Léonin: Judaea et Jerusalem (tenor, bass)
  2. Pérotin: Sederunt principes (tenor, bass)

  3. Machaut: Messe de Nostre Dame (soprano, alto, tenor, bass, recorder, treble fiddle, tenor fiddle, lute)
  4. Kyrie I - Christe - Kyrie II - Kyrie III
  5. Gloria
  6. Credo
  7. Sanctus
  8. Agnus Dei
  9. Ite missa est

  10. Dufay
  11. Vergine bella (alto, treble fiddle, tenor fiddle)
  12. Vexilla Regis (alto, tenor, bass)
  13. Flos florum (alto, treble fiddle, tenor fiddle, tenor, bass)
  14. Veni creator spiritus (alto, tenor)
  15. Alma redemptoris mater (alto, treble fiddle, tenor fiddle, tenor, bass)

Performers: Elisabeth Verlooy (soprano), Jeanne Deroubaix (alto), René Letroye (tenor), Franz Mertens (tenor), Frédéric Anspach (tenor), Louis Devos (tenor), Willy Pourtois (bass), Maurice de Groote (bass), Albert von Ackere (bass), Silva Devos (recorder), Janine Rubinlicht (treble fiddle), Janine Tryssesoone (treble fiddle), Gaston Dôme (tenor fiddle), André Douvere (tenor fiddle), Arthur Dirkx (tenor fiddle), Fernand Terby (tenor fiddle), Michel Podolski (lute)

Playing time: 75'

Recording dates: June 1953, Brussels Palais des Académies (Dufay); February 1956, Palais du Compte d'Egmont (Machaut); July 1956 (Leonin, Perotin); reissued on CD: 1996

Reissued from: Archiv LP 14068 (Leonin & Perotin), Archiv LP 14063 (Machaut), Archiv LP 14018 (Dufay)

This performance of Machaut's Messe de Nostre Dame has long been named one of the best, and indeed I continue to meet people who believe it is the best recording through the 1990s, yet I did not hear it until 1997. Clearly, it belongs among the best group, and does not sound dated. Although the sound is Mono, it has been re-edited expertly here and is very pleasant.

Perhaps the most surprising thing for me is that the voices are so rich & sonorous. Although not as strong as the modern EM singer, they are both full-throated and free of vibrato. Occasional passages show some weakness in tone, but these are the exception. Although instrumentalists participate, doubling is discreet, leaving the voices to fully dominate the texture. The result is even sumptuous.

In terms of both intellectual understanding of the work, and passionate involvement, Cape is clearly in the front rank. I fully believe this would be the preferred version for many listeners coming to it for the first time today. There is a wonderful richness of detail, combined with a powerful sweep.

The Dufay performances are well worth consideration. "Vergine bella" is especially spacious in conception compared to later renditions, although a bit thin sonically. The motet "Flos florum" is similarly spacious in performance and perhaps overly episodic architecturally. The harmonized hymns are engaging, although simpler compositions and definitely toward the ethereal end.

Perotin & Leonin are also given interesting performances in major works. Here my impression is that the rendition can be aimless sometimes, but with a pleasant floating quality. The former can perhaps be attributed to the fact that the interpretation does not use the "cell" approach to rhythmic organization which has become current for this repertory. Nonetheless, there is a definitely mystical quality conveyed in these performances, especially for Perotin. It is a powerful performance, if superseded musicologically.

There is little doubt that in terms of contemporary relevance, it is the Machaut performance which dominates this important reissue.

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Todd M. McComb