Ockeghem: 3-voice Masses

Ockeghem: The two three-voice masses
Missa Sine nomine / Missa Quinti toni
Schola Discantus - Kevin Moll
Lyrichord 8010

This is some of my favorite repertory. Although not so widely known, Ockeghem's three-voice writing is extremely compelling. Beginning with the present recording, these works have finally received some attention, and they repay a listener investment. I enjoy each of them a great deal, although I perhaps favor the Missa Sine Nomine somewhat over the Missa Quinti toni. In many ways, three-voice writing is critical to Ockeghem's style, because even the four-voice works make such a heavy use of three-voice combinations.

The present recording has become somewhat pivotal on my list. When it first appeared, I found it revelatory, although it recevied mixed reactions from others. I heartily approve of the basic performance decisions, as well as the tonal plans for vocal texture. However, the singers are not as strong as some. This is an aspect some people will pick up on, and it should be noted that this ensemble does rectify these few lapses in their later recording, partly by using some different singers.

Nonetheless, the polyphonic details are so impressively rendered here, that it is impossible for me not to recommend this recording. It remains the first program to render Ockeghem's complicated yet subtle polyphony with such lucidity. In terms of really understanding Ockeghem's sacred music, this recording continues to be perhaps the most valuable available. In some ways it remains more striking than their later recording, perhaps partly because the approach seemed so fresh at the time.

Clemencic's recording of the Missa Sine Nomine is also rather good (although I do not value the organ incipit), and the present choice is only somewhat superior. The same goes for the later recording by the Clerks' Group of the Missa Quinti toni. So although this recording was quite exciting when it first appeared, its significance has been blunted somewhat. The choice to retain it or to substitute the other two was one of the most difficult for this list. Nonetheless, having the two masses together here makes for a very satisfying program, and ultimately I find the two performances here somewhat more compelling than the other two.

To renaissance sacred list

Todd M. McComb