This recording contains the Missa Puisque je vis, almost certainly by Dufay, and Compère’s Omnium bonorum plena written in praise of the Virgin Mary, as well as motets by Dufay and other sources, all of which help colour our increasing awareness of the florid richness and emotional devotion of music before Baroque, till recently the starting point of most people’s awareness of the art. Characteristics of Dufay are his intricate workmanship and the development of independent balance among the vocal parts that lead us naturally to the satisfying clarity which has itself given old music a strangely contemporary feel.
The composers known collectively as the Fiamminghi made their mark in Europe in general and in Italy and in France in particular during the 15th century. Their talent and skill gained them the most important positions in the great musical establishments of the time. This collection is devoted to the leading composers of the 15th century, from those of the first generation (Guillaume Dufay, Gilles Binchois, Arnold de Lantins and Johannes Brassart) through Johannes Ockeghem, the great master of polyphonic technique, to Josquin Desprez and Pierre de La Rue, two musicians taught by Ockeghem who laid the foundations of the Ars Perfecta during the Renaissance. Also included is Jacob Obrecht, the only composer of this school whose career was based essentially in his native Flanders. Every genre of both sacred as well as secular music of the time is represented here.
England's Orlando Consort, a quartet of male singers augmented as needed by other performers, offers performances of Renaissance vocal music that lie midway between the traditional and the highly individualized modern. Sometimes they veer toward one of those two extremes, but often, as on the present disc, they find a happy medium. Their sound, especially in sacred music, owes much to the English cathedral tradition, but there's a well-honed edge to their one-voice-to-a-part interpretations that brings out the crowds who've recently been drawn to early music. This disc is intended as an introduction to a composer who doesn't always offer easy listening to the modern ear. Netherlander Antoine Busnois, active at the end of the fifteenth century and considered the greatest figure between Dufay and Josquin, wrote music that broke free from elaborate medieval numerology but came in advance of Josquin's perfect marriage of music and text.
To mark the 500th anniversary of the birth of Tallis, here are his biggest and best church compositions, performed in its customary high style by the Oxford Camerata under Jeremy Summerly (whose Fauré Requiem remains one of Naxos's all-time bestsellers). Tallis's youthful motet Salve intemerata is among the longest single-movement works of the 16th century, but it is Spem in alium, a work of Tallis's maturity, that overshadows any other English piece of the period, including those of his great contemporary, William Byrd. Scored for 40 independent voices, it is symphonic in proportion and resplendent in this surround-sound version.