MANCHICOURT: MISSA REGES TERRAE
Pierre De Manchicourt
CHOIR OF ST. LUKE IN THE FIELDS
“This disc opens with Manchicourt’s sturdy six-voice motet Reges terrae, followed by his parody mass based on the motet. This juxtaposition of interrelated genres is a nice feature of the recording and is expertly dramatized by the choir. The assertive, uniform sound they achieve in Reges terrae—a befitting choice given the angular motivic tendencies of the motet—relaxes considerably in the Kyrie, gaining warmth and flexibility. In this first movement, the choir seems to relish a new expansiveness after the comparative linguistic density of the motet. The ensemble makes the most of the particularly expressive moments in the mass... Four motets follow the opening motet-mass pair: Caro mea, Ne reminiscaris, Vidi speciosum, and Regina caeli. The immediacy and lush quality of Caro mea is refreshing after the mass, and the choir handles the closing triple meter section beautifully... Ne reminiscaris is sung expressively, and the choir’s performance is positively stunning... the ensemble’s sound is ideal for Manchicourt’s music, with the warmth of the men’s voices nicely complemented by the brighter women’s sound. [This CD] is a significant contribution to the existing commercial recordings of works by Franco-Flemish composers. The Choir of St. Luke in the Fields performs Manchicourt’s music with vigor and precision, and their efforts on this project will undoubtedly result in a wider appreciation for his works.”
Laura Wiebe, ACDA Journal [August 2018]
“[This recording] is stunning. For a start, the programming is sensible and illuminating, underscored by some outstanding sleevenotes... surprisingly this is the premiere recording of the mass, and it is every bit as magnificent as the motet on which it is based... both these works are outstanding. The four motets that follow all maintain that excellence as music...
The mixed professional choir sings two to a part. The acoustic is generous. David Shuler adjusts his tempi sensitively in relation to the number of voices in play and whether the music at a given point is polyphonic or homophonic, complicated or straightforward. The individual singers give their lines clarity but blend well. And finally, conductor and choristers perform with conviction, letting Manchicourt’s heavenly music sing for itself... buy this disc with confidence – not least because these fine performers deserve support for recording this glorious repertory.”
Richard Turbet, Early Music Review [May 2018]
“[This is] a solid, even enchanting album. The beautiful open-fifth head motive of “Reges terrae” is repeated at the start of every movement of the Mass, and each time it is just slightly spine-tingling. The ensemble is beautifully blended; each independent voice part is clearly heard, allowing the imitative motives to weave seamlessly into one another and creating that sense of constant forward motion Manchicourt cultivated. The “Benedictus,” with its reduced forces, in this respect, is a tiny gem. It is clear that the Mass is the heart of the recording, both figuratively and literally, and is a much-needed addition to our discography of Renaissance music... I would be delighted to see the choir tackle the rest of Manchicourt’s music... [the ensemble] does his work justice.”
Karen Cook, Early Music America [August 2017]
“It is one of the joys of a recording like this that it brings a remote moment in classical music history so vividly alive. Through the variety of its programming and the quality of the performances, this disc enables you to feel the force of Manchicourt's contribution to the rapid evolution of the Mass and motet... the Choir of St Luke in the Fields under David Shuler show a warmer, more human side of Manchicourt's art.”
Laurence Vittes, Gramophone [March 2017]
“The performance by the Choir of St. Luke in the Fields has a clear and bright English sound. One hears this constantly in the excellently trained Anglican choirs that abound, but here the music requires both fluidity and clarity. The disc accomplishes this easily allowing the smooth flow of Manchicourt’s ever-changing textures and weaving lines to emerge. This is one disc that is well worth checking out, especially if one is in need of melodious and soothing sound.”
Bertil van Boer, Fanfare [May/June 2017]
“Pierre de Manchicourt is not a name that is likely to be familiar to those outside of early music circles. A new release that is likely to change this comes from MSR Classics featuring the Choir of St. Luke in the Fields directed by David Shuler... This new recording opens with Manchicourt’s motet, Reges terrae which moves through the female voices across the choir to form a fine tapestry, maintaining some lovely subtle rubato before coming together beautifully at the end. Of particular interest here is the world premiere recording of Manchicourt’s Missa Reges terrae... The Kyrie has a luminous opening from the female voices of Choir of St. Luke in the Fields before all join for a quite wonderful weaving of choral lines... We are taken straight into the Gloria with a fine tenor bringing the opening words Gloria in Excelcis Deo after which so many of the choir’s individual voices can be heard blending and weaving a glorious musical tapestry. They colour and lift the texts beautifully bringing some impressive moments... A tenor opens the Credo before Manchicourt brings some particularly fine luminous textures, so finely revealed by this choir. The ear can follow all the vocal lines such is the clarity of this choir and, indeed, the recording... The Agnus Dei brings a wonderful weaving and a fine blend of these very fine voices. The choir bring a terrific precision as the various voices join in the opening of the motet, Caro mea (My flesh) with fine textures and some particularly rich lower sonorities over which the other voices weave some lovely lines... Ne Reminiscaris is an absolute gem, slowly emerging through some quite lovely passages before expanding through the choir, full of pathos, beautifully paced, with some absolutely exquisite moments, sung to perfection here. The choir find some especially lovely harmonies in the motet, Vidi Speciosum, again with a fine ebb and flow. The layering of vocal lines allows each section of this fine choir to shine through with some beautifully nuanced singing... With a world premiere and the Choir of St. Luke in the Fields providing such fine results, this is a must for all early music buffs and surely everyone who enjoys choral music. The choir receives a top notch recording from the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, New York City and there are excellent notes from John Bradley who also prepared the performing editions used here.”
Bruce Reader, The Classical Reviewer [March 2017]
“David Shuler and his choristers deliver performances of outstanding clarity and precision, dynamics and balance are handled with effortless ease, and the expressive and dramatic elements are so vibrantly portrayed they will certainly keep the listener's ears ringing. Immaculate sound quality and informative annotations complete a distinguished addition to this composer's still rather lean discography.”
Gerald Fenech, Music & Vision [February 2017]
“the St Luke choir make a wonderfully rich, full-throated and open sound which is often very moving... this choir does convey much of the beauty, brilliance and spirit of the music, which is of a high quality and at times, tear-jerkingly haunting.... The recording throughout offers just enough space and detailing to be fully effective... This is music that has been much overlooked, presented here...in often moving performances.”
Gary Higginson, MusicWeb International [February 2017]
"the programming and the quality of these performances by the 12 members of the Greenwich Village-based Choir enables you to feel the force of what Manchicourt brought to the swift moving evolution of the masses and motets that, along with chansons, were his genres."
Laurence Vittes, The Huffington Post [February 2017]
“The Choir of St. Luke in the Fields has remarkable clarity, sophistication, yet simultaneously, a peace of ethereal simplicity. Under the direction of championed David Shuler, the Choir’s distinguished blending allows the Manchicourt’s thematic subtleties to flourish and rapture the listener... Acoustics on this CD are first class. Those seeking music from the 16th century will do well by looking into this treasure. MSR Classics is a champion again as they continue on a path of classical finery.”
Christie Grimstad, ConcertoNet [January 2017]
“there are undiscovered beauties aplenty in the works of Pierre de Manchicourt on a new MSR Classics CD... [the music on this] is uniformly beautiful – Manchicourt was clearly highly skilled at vocal writing in the forms of his time... Manchicourt adopted some more-forward-looking approaches in his later motets, producing smoother melodic lines and frequent imitative vocal sections... there is extraordinary vocal beauty here, whether in the extended five-movement Missa Reges Terrae or in the five shorter works performed with great vocal smoothness and lovely blending by the Choir of St. Luke in the Fields under David Shuler. This choir is diligent about following historic performance practices, and the result is a recording whose lovely flow is evident from start to finish. The voices themselves are excellently balanced...This is a disc for people whose love of Renaissance-era music encompasses less-known as well as familiar composers, as long as their works sound as warmly convincing as they do here.”
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [January 2017]
“Missa Reges terrae, a full disc of [Manchicourt's] choral works nicely performed by the Choir of St. Luke in the Fields under David Shuler, gives us a vivid snapshot of the brilliant interlocking style of Manchicourt which includes the World Premiere of the title piece as well as a number of equally appealing shorter works. The performances are bracing, pinpont realizations of the music, hauntingly beautiful and glowingly soundstaged. Highly recommended!”
Grego Edwards, Gapplegate Classical Review [January 2017]
PROGRAM NOTESPierre de Manchicourt has emerged at last from the shadows and taken his place among the group of Franco-Flemish composers who dominated the European musical scene during the second third of the 16th-century. His name, now included on a list of luminaries that includes Jacobus Clemens non Papa, Thomas Crecquillon, and Nicolas Gombert, adds to the portrait of those significant composers who held prestigious positions during the lives and reigns of Charles V and Philip II. Manchicourt was active in Burgundy and Spain, had many of his motets and chansons published during his lifetime, and was one of the most famous composers of his time. The majority of his works were published by Pierre Attaingnant, who included his music in no less than fifteen of his collections. In 1539, Attaingnant devoted his fourteenth book of motets entirely to Manchicourt, an unusual feat in an age when most motet collections featured a variety of composers. The collection was immensely popular and was reprinted in 1545. By 1600, Manchicourt was largely forgotten.
So what happened to him? Most likely a combination of things: Manchicourt’s compositional style had a relatively short life span – old-fashioned by 1570 and outmoded by the end of the 16th century. The new philosophies of the counter-reformation were influencing composers and defining new trends and styles in the composition of church music, while, at the same time, royal patrons such as Philip II eagerly embraced the liturgical reforms emerging from the Council of Trent. Those reforms, combined with his interest in a hands-on approach to musical management issues within his chapel, led Philip in particular to search out and collect music by more modern composers like Guerrero, Rogier, and Victoria. Additionally, Manchicourt’s tenure in the Philip’s Court Chapel – the famed Capilla Flamenca – was tragically short, which may not have allowed Manchicourt sufficient time to leave a more remarkable legacy of more modern works. That some of the music from his years with Philip remains unedited may allude to the rapidity with which his compositions were stored and forgotten.
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It is easy to be seduced by the beauty and challenge of these compositions. The inner harmonic and rhythmic architecture of the six or eight voices, the surprising dissonances, the daunting yet satisfying acrobatic phrases, and the sheer loveliness of experiencing in an intimate way how all these components work joyously together makes this music a delight to perform. Manchicourt, at last, has been discovered and appreciated. Even after all this time, and the lengthy exile into obscurity, his music remains as magnificent and evocative today as it undoubtedly was at the court of Philip II.
David Shuler is Director of Music and Organist at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields in New York City, where he oversees an extensive music program. In addition to an active children’s chorister program, a professional choir sings masses and motets from the fifteenth century to the present day at the principal services of the church throughout the year. The choir is featured in an annual concert series of early music, and has made numerous recordings. Shuler is also the Music Director of the Dalton Chorale in Manhattan. In addition to his work with historically informed performances of early music, Shuler has been active as a champion of contemporary music, having premiered organ works of Charles Wuorinen, William Albright, Ralph Shapey, and Gunther Schuller, among others. A Fellow of the American Guild of Organists, he was awarded the certificate at the age of 22, being one of the youngest organists ever to achieve this distinction. Shuler recently completed a term as President of the Association of Anglican Musicians. Educated at the Eastman School of Music, Columbia University, and the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, David Shuler studied organ with David Craighead and Leonard Raver, composition with Joseph Schwantner, Samuel Adler and Gunther Schuller, and conducting with Amy Kaiser.
The Choir of St. Luke in the Fields is the resident vocal ensemble at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields in New York City’s historic Greenwich Village. Under the direction of David Shuler since 1988, the Choir regularly performs masses and motets dating from the 15th century to the present as part of the church’s liturgy. They appear frequently in concert, and are known for their historically informed performances of early music. The Choir presented the North American premieres of Georg Phillip Telemann’s St. Matthew Passion (1746) in 2003 and St. Luke Passion (1748) in 2013. In 2011, the ensemble gave the first New York City performance of C.P.E. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (1769). Excerpts from their 2009 Music at the Sistine Chapel concert were featured on an ABC news documentary aired in May of that same year, Secrets of the Sistine - Michelangelo’s Mystery. In addition, the Choir has presented a number of premieres of new works, including the New York premieres of Arvo Pärt’s Berliner Messe and Missa Syllabica and Dan Locklair’s Brief Mass. The ensemble has garnered consistently high praise in the press for their concert performances.
[ www.stlukeinthefields.org ]
Melissa Fogarty, Anna Lenti, Amanda Sidebottom, Marcia Young soprano
Kit Emory, Catherine Hedberg alto
Todd Frizzell, David Root, Michael Steinberger, Steven Caldicott Wilson tenor
Phillip Cheah, Peter Walker bass
PROGRAMPIERRE DE MANCHICOURT (c.1510-1564)
[WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING]
MISSA REGES TERRAE
IV. Sanctus & Benedictus
V. Agnus Dei