Matthæus Pipelare: Masses

Matthæus Pipelare 1
The Sound and the Fury
Fra Bernardo 130 920 2 [CDx2]

I had never taken major notice of Pipelare, but this set of four masses really catches my attention! This is the most compelling "new" music to appear in the past few years.

Each mass shows startling originality and polish, with a quasi-improvisatory style that marks Pipelare as a major successor to Ockeghem. The music does not shy away from using more rigorous procedures, but clearly follows the composer's imagination to create a distinctive individual masterpiece.

The Missa Dicit Dominus is strikingly bright, the one sacred theme in this program: It makes me think of a c.1500 Also sprach Zarathustra (even if that — musical — piece hasn't actually ever been a personal favorite, it is striking); I'm not sure what comparison to make with a work from its own era, although it certainly doesn't sound alien. The two masses on the second CD, of course, form part of significant traditions, with Pipelare's easily holding their own — in fact, his Missa Fors seulement can be considered an apex. The Missa Pour entretenir mes amours has even fewer points of comparison, perhaps based on Busnoys. Each is an amazing piece. It's such a shame this style fell out of fashion so quickly, to be replaced by more mechanical counterpoint.

The Sound and the Fury continues to select not only extremely interesting programs (although mostly masses), but to execute them with an increasingly masterful personal style. Both larger structural features & individual details are brought out expertly in this rendition, with one voice to a part. Although they disclaim paying too much attention to written pitch, to instead use the vocal resources they actually possess, and perhaps this aspect will prove enlightening in the future, the result is superb. They continue to improve their command of this repertory.

At this point, I would very much welcome more programs devoted to Pipelare.

This recording was named my EM Record of the Year for 2014.

To renaissance sacred list

Todd M. McComb