COMPÈRE Music for the Duke of Milan
This is only the third anthology devoted to Loyset Compère, whose 500th death-anniversary falls next year; but it is a fitting commemoration, for both music and performance are on a pleasingly high level. It recreates the music at the court of Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza of Milan, a colourful and aesthetic megalomaniac whose obsession with women and hunting was equalled only by a determination to establish a chapel choir to rival those of more illustrious rulers. Compère joined the ensemble two years before Galeazzo’s spectacular murder in 1476 resulted in a mass clear-out. He and his colleague Gaspar van Weerbeke were among the most renowned composers of the time, and enough music survives to suggest that those years must indeed have been splendid.
The recital’s centrepiece is the so-called Missa Galeazescha, a cycle of motets likely intended for performance while Mass was being said. This is interleaved with other motets by Weerbeke and Agricola, bringing together several ensembles in different combinations (including as soloist the organist Liuwe Tamminga, playing on a Bolognese instrument built in the very decade the music was composed).That voices and instruments combined as they do here in some movements of the Missa Galeazescha is by no means a given, but the groups are so well blended (and indeed opulent) that one imagines that Galeazzo would have been delighted. In fact, the variety of approaches on offer is one of this disc’s most attractive aspects. Two moments stand out for me: Tamminga’s rendering of organ intabulations (particularly Weerbeke’s Virgo Maria), an awe-inspiring sound; and a passage in the Missa Galeazescha when Compère abruptly switches styles, as though directly grafting a popular lauda into his music. At this point voices give way to instruments altogether; it’s a very moving moment.