Ockeghem: Missa Au travail suis

Ockeghem: Missa Au travail suis / Missa Sine Nomine a5
The Clerks' Group - Edward Wickham
AS&V Gaudeamus 215

Recorded back in 1999 (writing now in 2020), this release becomes rather dated. At the time, though, as the (retained) comments below attest, it came at the end of a project, and showed some real interpretive progress for its era. If anything, I'm now less fond of the interpretations than the comments below suggest — since, after all, various better results have appeared in the interim — but the program is still quite worthwhile, and not really duplicated by later efforts. It continues to fill a niche in this discography.

Now to the prior discussion (with some editing)....

The disc ends the Clerks' Ockeghem series, and does so with a rather different interpretation. Finally, they have a real emphasis on points of articulation and vocal color, the absence of which I had bemoaned in the past. This emphasis sometimes comes at the expense of some structural clarity, but is nonetheless notable, and marks a step in their interpretations.

Their re-recording of Intemerata Dei mater is improved, for instance... & summarizes the progress of the group nicely. And in my mind, the progress of this group equates to progress in the public consciousness of this music. There is much to be said for this view. When their series appeared, those of us who already felt an intimacy with Ockeghem's music simply yawned, and then bristled when instant acclaim came for such mediocre renditions. That Wickham & Co. did not rest on this acclaim, but have continued to probe the music for themselves says a great deal about their character. The improved command and sense of detail has been reflected directly in public reception of this and other intepretations of similar music. (Such a summary could be applied to many other projects around this repertory as well.)

After this meta-discussion of the context of this interpretation, it remains to be said that, although this may not be Ockeghem's very best music, it is among his better pieces. The Missa Au travail suis, in particular, has a definite appeal in its declamatory structure and unusual pairings. It can be striking, although a little awkward at times too. It is difficult to know where Ockeghem may have been going with some of the ideas there. The 5-voice Missa Sine Nomine is even more compact & animated, showing an economy which would only become a standard in later generations. It ends up being rather animated & enjoyable. The conjecturally attributed motet-chanson Permanente vierge is also a piece of some quality.

To renaissance sacred list

Todd M. McComb
Updated: 8 January 2020