Antoine Brumel was among the most distinguished composers of his time, the first great French rather than Flemish Renaissance composer. He served as master of choristers at Notre Dame in Paris and then was employed at the d’Este court in Ferrara, where he succeeded Obrecht. After the disbandment of the court chapel Brumel may have spent time in Rome, where it is thought his Missa de Beata Virgine, his most famous composition, may have been written.
Dominique Visse and his group Ensemble Clément Janequin have been involved in many outstanding projects over the years, but this 2002 Harmonia Mundi recording has to be one of the most spectacular; the Missa "Et ecce terrae motus" (aka, "The Earthquake Mass") of Antoine Brumel. Brumel is one of many mid-renaissance composers whose reputations are so far overshadowed by Josquin Desprez that – like Rodney Dangerfield – they "just don't get no respect." In Brumel's own time, however, he was considered one of Josquin's equals and his death in 1512 was widely observed in a number of "déplorations." Although the mass itself survives in only a single manuscript copy, it bears the signatures of singers who revived the work in Munich in 1570 – probably close to a century after it was first given – and among them is a bass named Orlandus Lassus.
Who was this Antoine Brumel? He was a difficult person in every respect and a selfwilled and eccentric composer. A difficult personality is not unusual for a musician, yet his idiosyncrasy was recognized even in his own lifetime.
According to the standards of his time, Brumel's music knows no boundaries, is daring and never strictly academic. Whether this concerns imaginative musical structures, the working-out of counterpoint or the writing of repetitive forms - it is always more or less "outrageous".
The most fascinating of Brumel's works is without a doubt his twelve-part mass ET ECCE TERRAE MOTUS.
Il Codice consta di 101 carte munite di tre distinte filigrane, la più antica delle quali risponde ad un tipo assai diffuso in Piemonte circa fra il 1420 e il 1475, mentre la più recente si può far risalire ai primi decenni del Cinquecento. Le composizioni - tutte a 3 o a 4 voci (salvo una che è a 2 voci) - sono complessivamente 49: 8 messe (fra cui una pro defunctis), 11 Magnificat, 14 mottetti di varia natura (inni, antifone, Salve Regina, ecc.), 2 Benedictus, 12 chansons, 1 canone enigmatico, 1 brano strumentale. Solamente per 19 di tali composizioni si conosce il nome dell'autore, il più delle volte individuato attraverso il confronto con altre fonti, e fra questi figurano Alexander Agricola, Loyset Compère, Hayne van Ghizeghem, Heinrich Isaac, Antoine de Fevin, Jacob Obrecht, Antoine Brumel e un «misterioso» Engarandus Juvenis - un nome presente esclusivamente nel Codice di Staffarda, autore di una Missa pro defunctis e di un Magnificat a 4 voci, nonchè di un Salve Regina a 3 voci -, tutti scomparsi fra la fine del XV secolo e i primi due decenni del XVI.
The Clerks' Group is a popular a cappella singing ensemble devoted largely to Medieval and Renaissance-era vocal works. It consists of eight singers, but early on performed with as few as six. The range of most of the compositions the group performs spans from the eleventh century to the end of sixteenth century, though there are a small number of contemporary pieces that were commissioned for concert use. At the heart of the repertory are sacred works by Ockeghem, Josquin Desprez, Obrecht, Machaut, Dufay, Dunstable, and other composers of that era.
"The Flemish masters have been at the heart of our work from the beginning, just as they were at the heart of the whole Renaissance musical scene - and their Masses were the showcase in which they displayed their most sophisticated achievements…"
Music in 14th century Europe was dominated by the composers working in the Low Countries, or what we now call The Netherlands and Belgium and Northern France. Dufay was born in Cambrai, but went to Italy in the 1420s to work in Bologna, and eventually became a member of the Papal choir before returning to Cambrai. Josquin Desprez was from Flanders, and moved to Milan in 1460, and like Dufay became a member of the Papal choir, before moving to Cambrai. He was one of the first composers to benefit from the printing of music and his reputation traveled far and wide as a result. His music is beautifully crafted, and he attempted to convey in music the inner meaning of the words - one of the earliest instances of a composer exploring the expressive possibilities of text and music. Ockeghem was born in Dendermonde, and he traveled to Spain and throughout Flanders. His music, like Josquin’s is superbly crafted, with intricate rhythmic sections, and a seamless flow of counterpoint.