The anonymous Mass Cantate Domino for six voices (#1-4) is recorded in an incomplete set of part-books of about 1550, traditionally linked with Dunkeld Cathedral, but more likely originating in the collegiate chapel of Lincluden, Dumfriesshire. Much has had to be done to complete the music: the bass part is missing throughout and three other voices are more or less fragmentary towards the end. The style of the music is 'British decorative' of the earlier sixteenth century with its characteristic mixture of florid and imitative counterpoint. On closer examination, however, the work may be of Scottish origin: the music is directly related to the five-part Mass Fera pessima by Robert Carver, finest Scottish composer of sacred music in the early sixteenth century. I suggest that the present Mass is a reworking of about 1525 for six voices, possibly by Carver himself, of the earlier five-part composition: much thematic material is common to both works, though the six-part shows a more assured technical command. It is a cyclic Mass in the established tradition: each movement opens with the same head-motif and each is based on the same cantus firmus - a plainsong melody, as yet unidentified. Also, traditionally, the music has been arranged to alternate full and solo sections. It is an impressive work, and if by Carver - it is certainly very good Carver.
The works included on this disc traverse an almost 25 year span of interest in writing for large vocal forces. Some of my largest works have been for choir—such as my St. Luke Magnificat or my Shoah Requiem—but on this disc the works, apart from my Missa Brevis, are for a cappella choir. Writing for a cappella choir is a very inspiring medium coupled, as it is, with text and language and the inherent timbral interest of varied vowel and percussive consonant sounds in the voice. The works, apart from Silence from my Two Looks at Silence, are all in Latin and owe more than a little to my background as a Catholic and Catholocism's traditional sacred liturgical literature. —Douglas Knehans.
This is music of tremendous imagination. Knehans scores with a masterly hand, his sound paintbrush unerringly hitting the mark. The orchestral writing is magnificent (and beautifully realized here). All credit to the virtuosity of the Brno Philharmonic and the expert ear of their conductor, Mikel Toms, for delivering such a razor-sharp performance. A fascinating disc.