Obrecht: Missa Fortuna desperata / Missa Maria zart

Obrecht Masses
Beauty Farm
Fra Bernardo 1905157 [CDx2]

First of all, this is an excellent program. Although Obrecht's output shows less stylistic variety than that of some of his peers, and thus many of the mass cycles (which are by far his most substantial contribution) seem similar to others, these two stand out: The Missa Fortuna desperata may be Obrecht's "most characteristic" in that it seems to encapsulate so much of his mature technique & within the broad horizon of one of the dominant themes of the late medieval era, while the Missa Maria zart is his most extended (particularly linearly via sequences).

For the latter though, there's now the Cappella Pratensis recording, and that involves another (a new...) level of textual sophistication around metrical changes — even as Beauty Farm does come off more passionately. So this entry is now mainly for the Missa Fortuna desperata, but that's still probably the second best Obrecht mass performance on record....

So one might compare the Fortuna desperata mass to Josquin's later setting then, which it apparently inspired: Josquin presents more textual subtlety & symbolic erudition, but also doesn't have Obrecht's sheer sonic brilliance....

The interpretation itself is outstanding, perhaps the strongest & most coherent yet for this broader repertory at the time (per my earlier remarks...): There's not only an amazing sense of gravity (in what is, after all, religious music), but momentum & clarity. And the four voices are audible individually, yet combine into a greater whole. (The latter is more developed than previously for this ensemble, which nonetheless retains its remarkable attention to tuning & other details.) This is ecstatic music, presented as compellingly as I've heard it.

To renaissance sacred list.

Todd M. McComb
Updated: 24 April 2023