Tinctoris: Selected works

Tinctoris: Secret Consolations
Le Miroir de Musique - Baptiste Romain
Ricercar 380

Tinctoris is best known as a theorist, but did leave a worthwhile musical output including mass cycles, motets, and secular songs. (The music comes to nearly three hours in total, at a guess.) The present disc samples some of his best, including some mass movements. I've placed it in the secular list since that's the majority of the program — as well as because of the style of performance.

The album opens with a motet played on bowed strings, announcing the role that instruments will have in the interpretation, and indeed Le Miroir de Musique are masters of instrumental performance, but the next part of the motet switches to include voices, and the ensemble soon shows its prowess in vocal polyphony. The rondeau that follows remains on strings throughout, but the canzona adopts a standard soprano & strings recitative style, broadening into a vocal duet, & leading into the first mass movement: The other mass selections actually support the heart of the (generically named) "Missa sine nomine 3," a cycle that (due to local custom) does not include a Kyrie or Agnus. It's quite an opening sequence, and then the 3-movement mass cycle shows incredible command of forward momentum, making it perhaps Tinctoris's most sophisticated, here with the Gloria & Sanctus (as well as the Kyrie from the relatively more known & austere L'homme armé mass) given surprisingly polished all-vocal performances by an ensemble that had not previously attempted such a style — surrounding an all-instrumental Credo (together with a mixed ensemble motet) that serves to underscore the continuity in Tinctoris's musical ideas between genres. (One might imagine that a theorist has a preexisting urge toward consistency, a consistency already noted retrospectively in the works of others. Such continuity is highlighted here by including a few of the works on which Tinctoris based his.) The effect of the Agnus is then one of strange lightness, as the later parts of the program go on to deal more explicitly with Tinctoris's art of diminution & arrangement, including of some very well-known music, making for a richly technical presentation amid lush sound. The result is more sophisticated on every level than this ensemble's previous album.

Although Tinctoris might not have written the sort of landmark pieces as did some of his contemporaries, (indeed) about whose music he wrote, he has many interesting ideas, and this program shows them off to excellent effect. I end up not even minding the mixed program (including extracts of masses), because the result comes together so well as a musical portrait.

To renaissance secular list

Todd M. McComb