Ockeghem Missa De Plus En Plus
The highly acclaimed Ockeghem series from The Clerks’ Group continues with this premiere recording of another of the composer’s four-voice Masses. Of all the Masses to date, De plus en plus is probably the earliest; certainly it most clearly bears the influence of the previous generation. But despite its relatively conservative appearance on the page, the first impression is – as always with Ockeghem – one of striking originality. The florid outbursts of two-part writing are a test of any ensemble’s solo resources, and are in sharp contrast to the full triadic sonorities of the four-voice sections, which seem at times to swell the course of the music like a tide. The Clerks handle this abundance of variety with customary elegance; this is a performance whose phrases have been carefully and sensitively thought through, and lovingly executed. The way in which the final return to triple-time in the Gloria is quite literally ushered in (at the words “Jesu Christe”) is one example among many. Occasional hiccups notwithstanding (the articulation of the opening duos, necessary for the singers to catch their breath, but which might have been better placed), this may be The Clerks’ finest interpretation of a Mass since their Ecce ancilla Mass four years ago (Proud Sound, 10/93).
The accompanying pieces are more of a mixed bag, both as interpretations and as music, but they do include another recording premiere of the first quality in the shape of the five-voice motet Gaude Maria, attributed to Ockeghem in its only surviving source. I’m bound to say that if this is by Ockeghem I’ll eat my hat. Whoever did write Gaude Maria was a considerably younger composer but (more to the point) a very fine one indeed. The Clerks have always had a real nose for truly exciting discoveries (remember Isaac’s