Ockeghem: Complete Songs

Ockeghem: Complete Songs
Blue Heron - Scott Metcalfe
Blue Heron 1010

This discussion concerns the first volume. A second volume has been announced, but has not appeared. Presumably it will be added to this listing in order to "restore" a full program of these songs.

While not as varied in their material as those in some other collections (notably Dufay's), Ockeghem's songs are of the highest interest. Several are among my favorites. The set is also filled out with some partial & doubtfully attributed, or other related items, but these are generally appealing too. (Of course, the contents of the second volume are unknown at this point, but the first volume presents a promising selection heralding more good choices.)

The performances themselves are superb, very carefully prepared & executed with the weight of a "complete" collection for posterity apparently in mind.... If anything, the interpretations may be too careful to have as much pizzaz as some other projects, but the care is also appreciated. Voices are well chosen, phrasing & articulation are highly studied, and different forces are chosen so as to bring out the individual features of each chanson. (For instance, on this disc, the only part doubling occurs on S'elle m'amera / Petite camusecte — where the lowest part is doubled by harp to provide a welcome rhythmic emphasis for this lively, combinative song.)

In this, interpretive novelty is not at all the focus here, but rather "posterity" per se, or so it would appear. In that, this seems like an almost ideal production, and I have no criticism of the project, at least as a retroactive document of preservation. It's obviously been carefully planned, and the execution is superb. It's rare, maybe unprecedented, to hear a recording of material from this era & not to think (almost immediately) of potential improvements....

(The classic Medieval Ensemble of London also sounds in the background as an inspiration to this developing set, and that was already one of the most significant medieval "archival sound" collections of its era, the best that group had done — although, perhaps paradoxically, I do retain their Dufay cycle here, although it's noticeably less accomplished.)

I expect I'll be looking at a four-star rating here once the second volume is released — that is, unless it shows lower standards for some reason (which I don't expect). This first volume is already very polished.

To renaissance secular list

Todd M. McComb