A ‘gen­tle mas­ter’ emerges from Josquin’s shadow

Kate Bolton-por­ci­atti basks in the warm glow of The Bra­bant Ensem­ble’s Févin Masses and motets

BBC Music Magazine - - Choral & Song -

Missa Ave Maria, Missa Salve sancta parens

The Bra­bant Ensem­ble/stephen Rice

Hype­r­ion CDA68265 79:13 mins

Priest, singer and com­poser to ‘good king Louis’ XII of France, An­toine de Févin was highly es­teemed in his day, as at­test the var­i­ous plau­dits to ‘le gen­til Févin’ and the wide cir­cu­la­tion of his works in the early 1500s. Since the the­o­rist Glare­anus dubbed him ‘a happy im­i­ta­tor of Josquin’, Févin has hov­ered in the shadow of his more il­lus­tri­ous con­tem­po­rary. This disc, then, is an im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to our un­der­stand­ing of the ‘gen­tle mas­ter mu­si­cian’, bring­ing to light two of his Masses and a pair of motets. The Missa Ave Maria quotes and in­ge­niously re-works Josquin’s terse ‘★ail, Mary’ motet into a sump­tu­ously tex­tured ta­pes­try – wor­thy of a man born in the mag­nif­i­cent town of Ar­ras. Poly­phonic lines, dove­tail­ing voices, and strict canons con­trast with chordal pas­sages, duets and trios. In the plain­chant Mass Salve sancta parens, Févin laces florid melis­mas around the chant foun­da­tions, and sym­bol­i­cally en­twines ‘im­per­fect’ du­ple time (tem­pus im­per­fec­tum – al­lud­ing to mor­tal life), and ‘per­fect’ triple time (tem­pus per­fec­tum – al­lud­ing to Par­adise). Sim­i­larly, in the joy­ous motet ‘As­cen­dens Chris­tus in al­tum’, he off­sets vo­cal trios with ho­mo­phonic tex­tures to sug­gest the Trin­ity. We’re also treated to two ver­sions of the airy motet Sancta Trini­tas, one pumped up with ad­di­tional parts by Févin’s con­tem­po­rary, Arnold von Bruck.

This disc con­tin­ues The Bra­bant Ensem­ble’s laud­able ex­plo­ration of the by­ways of Franco-flem­ish polyphony. Di­rec­tor Stephen Rice brings per­cep­tive mu­si­cal in­sights to these ac­counts, and also sheds light on Févin’s id­iom in the ex­cel­lent CD book­let. ★is vo­cal ensem­ble may be slen­der but the singing is ro­bust and buoy­antly ar­tic­u­lated. Boy­ish up­per voices off­set vel­vety tenors and basses, and the rel­a­tively close record­ing per­spec­tive pro­duces a sound at once lu­cid and lus­trous.

PER­FOR­MANCE

RECORD­ING

Hear ex­tracts from this record­ing and the rest of this month’s choices on the BBC Mu­sic Mag­a­zine web­site at www.clas­si­cal-mu­sic.com

Di­rec­tor Stephen Rice brings per­cep­tive mu­si­cal in­sights

Masses of tal­ent: Stephen Rice and The Bra­bant Ensem­ble

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