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Brussels - Masses by Frye and Plummer from the Brussels

Brussels - Masses by Frye and Plummer from the Brussels-Vocal Collection
ID: SIGCD015 (EAN: 635212001523)  | 1 CD | DDD
Vydano: 1999
Signum Records
Vocal Collection
Anonymous | BEDYNGHAM, John | FRYE, Walter | PLUMMER, John
The Clerks' Group
Dal informace:
1. Kyrie Deus creator omnium - Sarum Chant2:20
FRYE, Walter (? -1475) 
Missa Flos Regalis (a,b,d-g) 
2. Gloria6:28
3. Credo7:01
4. Sanctus7:16
5. Agnus Dei6:06
BEDYNGHAM, John (1422-1460) 
6. Myn hertis lust (c,d,f)2:16
7. Fortune alas (b,d,e)1:55
8. Mi verry joy (c,d,e)3:43
FRYE, Walter (? -1475) 
9. Alas, alas, alas (b,e,f)3:22
10. So ys emprentid (b,d,e)2:49
11. Pryncesse of youthe (c,d,e)2:27
PLUMMER, John (c. 1410-1484) 
Missa Sine nomine (b-f) 
12. Kyrie omnipotens pater4:32
13. Gloria4:28
14. Credo4:35
15. Sanctus4:41
16. Agnus Dei4:35


Classics Today
Scholars poking around in old manuscripts are always finding interesting things to share with eager performers and listeners. Often these gems are fragments and snippets that must be reconstructed or supplemented with texts and/or music presumed to be appropriate, based on contemporary practice and other authenticated evidence. There's some of that here in this program that features two masses taken from the famous 15th century manuscript known as Brussels 5557, interspersed with several three-part songs from other sources of the same period. A Kyrie had to be supplied to the Walter Frye Missa Flos Regalis and confusing questions of text-setting had to be worked out for John Plummer's Missa sine nomine; for some of the songs--by John Bedyngham, Frye, and anonymous--performance directions missing from the manuscripts had to be surmised. For experienced listeners to early vocal music, the masses will reveal their composers' innovative and often bold and surprising techniques in both structure and harmony. The songs are interesting as representatives of pieces that were popular both in England and in continental Europe and as such were subjected to different text adaptations. Frye's "Alas, alas, alas" is popular enough even today to merit inclusion on several recorded early music compilations already in the catalog.

The Clerks' Group, which includes a total of seven singers used in various combinations, takes some time to warm up to its chosen program. The opening Frye mass lacks the convincing ensemble, decisive tempos, and confident vocal interplay demonstrated by the Hilliard Ensemble in its own rendition for ECM. The Clerks do hit their stride with the last two songs in a group of three by Bedyngham, "Fortune alas" (performed with male alto and two tenors) and "Mi verry joy" (female alto and two tenors); and the singers really come together in Plummer's delightful and sometimes quirky mass, with its five almost exactly equal sections. Perhaps this agreeable music is just better-suited to the voices and sensibilities of these particular performers; perhaps it's also the middle-to-lower register setting that makes it fall so well on our ears. Mike Clements' excellent engineering also helps create a complementary listening environment for these pieces, which adequately fill several of the many holes in the early music discography.
David Vernier

American Record Guide - November/December 2000
By most standards, this belongs in the collections section, as an anthology with a very specific focus: a manuscript in the Bibliotheque Royale Albert I of Brussels, No. 5557. So you will thus find this release titled simply "Brussels 5557", and doubtless filed in the anthology bins. Digging in to that manuscript, Wickham has extracted two Masses by English composers active or known on the Continent in the third quarter of the 15th century. One is the four-voice Flos Regalis Mass by Walter Frye (14??-1475), its absent Kyrie replaced by a troped specimen ('Deus creator omnium') found in Sarum Chant. The other is the Sine Nomine Mass by one Plummer (14??-c.1487).

To these two major works Wickham has added (drawn from other sources) six three-voice English-language songs whose attributions have varied between Frye, John Bedyngham (1422-60), and Anonymous. The program thus extends much beyond the professed focus on the Brussels manuscript and gives us a cross-section of music by mid-15th-century English composers important beyond their own homeland in their day.

Little is known about the life of Plummer - not even his first name - though he must have been an interesting personality, judging from the strikingly experimental character of his three-voice Mass. Only a bit more is known about Bedyngham, and hardly much ore about Frye. We do know that Frye in particular was held in high esteem by his French colleagues, regarded as the pre-eminent exponent of what was called la contenance angloise or "the English personality" as a stylistic influence in music. Collectors will find that the contributions of Frye are the important elements in this program, and for that reason I have headed it under his name.

For all its importance, the music of Walter Frye has not often been recorded: very rare representation in anthologies and only two full records all to himself. In 19782 the enterprising if unsubtle Alejandro Planchart recorded a full LP of Frye's music for Lyrichord: a different Mass and seven shorter pieces, including three of the English ballads recorded by Wickham. In 1992 four members of the post-Hillier Hilliard Ensemble made a Frye program for ECM. That release offered the same Flos Regalis Mass as here, its four preserved movements interspersed with Frye's five surviving three-voice Latin motets, plus a French rondeau and the same three English songs Planchart treated. Planchart's recording is long gone and presumably beyond recovery now, but the Hilliard program is the clear competition. In the directly duplicated material, the Hilliards and Wickham's group are fairly well matched: if anything, the former are just a tad more interested in flowing lines, whereas the latter give a slightly more inflected texture to their singing. Wickham's pool of seven singers (two females, five males) allows him in the Mass just a bit more sonority than the four Hilliards muster - thought not much.

In truth, of course, the ECM record and this admirable new Signum release are complementary and anyone willing to probe into the less-familiar byways of late-medieval-early- renaissance music will find Wickham's program - part of a series for Signum exploring the contents of important manuscripts 0 a fascinating new treasure chest.


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