Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Philippe Herreweghe, Ensemble Vocal Europeen, Hans Leo Hassler|
Hassler: Missa Dixit Super Maria /Ensemble Vocal Europeen * Herreweghe
Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Classical
Listen to Samples
anonymous | Los Angeles | 05/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is music out of the High Renaissance that should be a lot better known than it is.
Hassler was in the first generation of german composers to go down to Italy to study with the great masters there. He worked with Andrea Gabrieli in Venice, and went back north, where he made one sublime piece of music after another.
Hassler's setting of the Lutheran Mass has a certain ascetic quality that his lutheran audience would have approved of. At the same time, though, the Mass has this sensuous, intimate quality that's straight from Italy. In addition to a gentle, faint folk-like quality that's subtle enough that you can't quite put your finger on it, but gives the music a very direct quality you don't get with someone like Palestrina, or even in someone like Schutz.
On the strength of the Missa alone, Hassler was a major talent. The Motets on this recording are a bit too austere for my taste, but can be quite powerful.
The Missa is the deal here. Worth buying this recording for the Mass alone. The singing is flawless and stylish and expressive, as you'd expect from Herreweghe. The music of Hassler's Mass will take you away to a quieter, slower, sweeter world. Listen especially to the final Alleluja.. the other-worldly beauty Hassler brings to the music will take your breath away."
Herreweghe Seldom Disappoints...
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 05/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"... Nevertheless, I was slow to acquire this CD, for several reasons. First, I usually don't find large-choir performances of polyphonic masses very satisfactory, since the recording technology makes them sound unhuman. Second, Herreweghe is essentially a Baroque specialist, whose performances from Schuetz to Bruckner are unsurpassed, but Baroque-niks often do odd things to polyphony. The first objection is in fact applicable, but the second misses by a Swedish mile. Herreweghe conducts Hassler as if polyphony were his first language. Unfortunately, I've waited too long to be useful in reviewing this superb performance, which is now available only from a CD scalper who wants $210 for the disk. So I'll take the opportunity to offer a brief lesson in hearing and singing the music of Hassler and earlier polyphonists. I'll try not to use specialist's language.
High Renaissance mensural notation - sometimes called "white note" because of the empty squares and circles that represent pitches - was and is remarkably eloquent in telling us about the composer's rhythmic intentions. People who declare that 'we can't know what it sounded like' just haven't studied the original notation well enough. Modern conductors of this repertoire can be divided into two classes: the ones who perform from modern transcriptions and the ones who at least examine facsimiles of the originals and prepare their own scores for the singers. Believe it or not, I can almost always hear the difference in the performances. Herreweghe has examined deeply.
White notation has no bar lines. The highest-level unit of counting is the implicit tactus, which is always ONE, a long unit of time normally equivalent to a square note with a tail. Skilled choirs didn't need a conductor as such, but there are accounts and pictures suggesting that 'someone' might have held the tactus on occasion by a stiff up-and-down arm movement. The tactus was sometimes established by taking one's pulse; if so, Herreweghe's health must be excellent since his pulse would be between 50 and 60 per minute.
At the beginning of a score, there was a time signature - a circle or a C shape - indicating the tempus, that is, the division of the implicit tactus of ONE into THREE or TWO. THREE was called "perfect", since three-in-one represented the Holy Trinity. Therefore, TWO was called "imperfect." The circle or C might be slashed or contain a dot; the presence or absence of such marks indicated the "prolation", that is the basic division of the tempus once again into units of three-in-one or two-in-one. Thus a perfect tempus and a perfect prolation would be 1:3:3. An imperfect tempus and a perfect prolation would be 1:2:3. A musicologist might transcribe the latter as 6/8, but that would be misleading since it would start from the smallest unit of time whereas the white-note always started from the largest. A conductor using only the rhythmic expression of the transcription would "beat" time conspicuously, often so conspicuously that the listener might 'hear' bar-lines and down-beats where there shouldn't be any.
White-note also had very subtle means of expressing rhythmic changes and polyrhythmic passages, by way of Coloration, so-called because the actual notes on parchment would be colored red instead of black, or else the white-note shapes would be blackened, eventually mutating into modern notational conventions which we call "black note." Singers had to be very expert in these conventions, since one voice might be singing in coloration while another sang in the basic tempus and prolation. Remember that nodody could be reading or conducting from full score; there were only part-books. Some original manuscripts - large books placed on a lectern for use - had the typical four parts spread over two open pages but facing different edges of the page so that singers could stand around the lectern. Many white-note manuscripts are beautiful works of calligraphic art, with miniature paintings. It was surely a visual treat to be a singer in a 16th or 17th C choir.
The whole point is that a performance of Renaissance and German Baroque vocal music must have sublime rhythmic suppleness and independence of rhythmic "rhetoric" in every voice/part. That's an ideal achieved consistently only by the best one-on-a-part ensembles such as The Clerks' Group and The Orlando Consort...and by Herreweghe with his Ensemble Europeen. And now for some good news for the CD shopper. This performance is available for MP3 download and sounds glorious on headphones."