Ockeghem: Missa L'homme armé

Ockeghem: Missa L'homme armé
Ensemble Nusmido
Rondeau Production 6106

The main item here is obviously Ockeghem's Missa L'homme armé. This is, according to some analysis, although not indisputably, one of his earliest cycles, and of course relates to the broader tradition of L'homme armé masses during the era (of which it might also be one of the earliest). Here it receives a one-to-a-part performance from original notation, with the singers standing around the choirbook, as in iconography of the period. I found the result to be revelatory, such that whereas I had not found this mass cycle to be terribly interesting previously, I now find it quite engaging. So, in that sense, one cannot praise the interpretation enough: There is much linear independence here, focusing on a chant-like reading of the parts, with tuning alignment expanding from the middle parts (rather than in a top-down approach). The phrasing consequently leads the mass sections into very different areas, emphasizing a contemplative relation to the theme.

However, the sequence of instrumental pieces (played here on winds) is also quite worthwhile, including an equally revelatory performance of Busnoys' In hydraulis, paired with Ockeghem's response, Ut heremita solus (which had already received some similar, quality performances on disc). The singers also play the wind instruments (with a fiddle player added for the last track, also striking for its vocal effects).

This was both a new label & new ensemble for me. The production is well done, and the young ensemble itself could hardly have been more impressive. What else might they reveal?

To renaissance sacred list

Todd M. McComb