The “Barcelona Mass”: the new program of the Ensemble Musica Nova!
Premiere performed at the Palais des Papes in Avignon, November 24, 2018. Co-realization of Baroque Music in Avignon, Avignon Tourism and Opera Grand-Avignon.
This polyphonic Mass of the late fourteenth century takes part of the liturgical repertoire of the Papal Chapel installed in Avignon but also the Aragonese Court of Barcelona from which it takes its name.
It constitutes one of the first full polyphonic cycles of the ordinary part of the Mass still used today, like the famous Mass of Our Lady by Guillaume de Machaut.
It thus contains the usual parts, namely Kyrie, Gloria, Creed, Sanctus and Agnus Dei.
Despite apparent internal coherence, several parts were independently composed by different authors, most of whom remain anonymous, and it was only later that they were brought together to form a coherent corpus.
Musica Nova offers a renewed reading of this work. The choices of alterations (flats and sharps) made possible by the principles of musica ficta were done in collaboration with
Gérard Geay. The work reveals sounds unpublished to this day and singers read directly on the facsimile of the manuscript.
Motets from the same period complete this program. We can found the works of the two main figures of the Ars Nova, Philippe de Vitry and Guillaume de Machaut, but also the creations of less famous authors present in the manuscript of Ivrea (Italy), constituting one of the main sources of this index.
Jacob Handl – Motets: the last disc recorded by Musica Nova!
Jacob Handl -Motets
CD, Le palais des dégustateurs
Towards the end of the Renaissance, the motet genre experienced a kind of golden age. Since the 1550s, works dedicated to this genre came about steadily one after another, with Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina composing nearly 300 and his contemporary Roland de Lassus more than 700. That is without taking into account the printed anthologies associated with this genre, which were circulated around big music publishing cities such as Venice, Nuremberg, Paris and Antwerp, and spread throughout all of Europe.
In Prague, at the centre of the Empire, music publishing also experienced a remarkable growth. This was enhanced by the establishment of the Habsburg residence in the capital Bohemia in 1583. Whilst Philippe de Monte, the appointed composer of Rudolf II’s imperial chapel, published around 250 of his motets primarily in Venice, evolving somewhat on the sidelines was the work of a more discreet author. Jacobus Handl succeeded at one the most ambitious projects devoted to this genre, in publishing 374 motets in close collaboration with the main publisher in Prague at the time, Jiří Nigrin.
Plainly entitled Opus musicum (Work of Music), this collection is exceptional in many respects. Made in a very short time (its four volumes were published between 1586 and 1591), its distinctive feature is that it is designed to follow the process of a liturgical year. This type of order had already been followed in some previous anthologies, particularly by Heinrich Isaac, the composer of Maximilian I, at the beginning of the century. However this was the first time that such achievement came from close collaboration between a composer and a publisher.
Handel was in fact a cantor in a small Romanesque church in Prague’s old town, just a few steps away from the Nigrin workshop where his brother George Handel worked as a publisher too, acting as an intermediary between the Church and the workshop press. Nigrin, who printed all kinds of books, from extemporary information sheets to major works on astronomy and botany, was fully aware of the importance of this publication. Within his catalogue of musical publishing, mostly provided from Bohemia, the Opus musicum is considered a masterpiece.
Marc Desmet, musicologist