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Brumel: Missa "Et ecce terrae motus"; Sequentia "Dies irae, Dies illa" Original recording remastered, Import


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Product Details

  • Composer: Antoine Brumel
  • Audio CD (Aug. 27 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording remastered, Import
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B00006GO7C
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Format: Audio CD
When this masterpiece opens it's like the sun coming up in the mind's eye. I've had this recording since 1990 I think, and it never gets old, despite the fact that it was written in the 15th or early 16th century. Remarkably, part of the work was lost for nearly five hundred years, and its rediscovery sometime in the late 1980s made this recording possible.

Upon hearing this, it's easy to believe that Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys) was inspired by music like this, especially when he made some comments to that effect quite a few years ago.

As one might expect from its era, this work is ecclesiastical in origin, written as a mass. It's entirely a cappella. On the other hand, the final track, "Dies trae Dies illa", is performed on trombones, is a separate work, and I find it easy to skip listening to it.

Ecclesiastical music is much more palatable to me when it is in a language I don't understand. While I find Handel's "The Messiah" stirring, I find Brumel much more satisfying. Those who enjoy "The Messiah" will also enjoy "Et ecce terrae motus", but they are not particularly similar. Also, due to the language barrier (for those who don't know Latin), there's no seasonal taint to the Brumel.

The original release has great sound quality, I would suppose that the remastered version sounds even better, and is a steal at this price, or really any other price. There appear to be a couple of other recorded versions available, but I've not heard them. I'm sure the long-overdue renewed interest in the long-dead composer is a sign of good things to come.

The booklet includes quite fascinating liner notes.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Another revelation from Paul van Nevel Aug. 2 2005
By Sator - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Thomas Morley wrote in 1597 that only Brumel and Josquin held the secrets to the older canonic techniques of the composers of the Prima Prattica. In an obviously sign of great admiration Orlando Lassus performed the Missa 'Et ecce terrae motus' over fifty years after Brumel's death. This is a monumental work written in no less than 12 parts yet has a tremendous immediacy that gives it wide appeal. During Brumel's lifetime even Ottaviano Petrucci published a book of his masses, and a number of composers wrote pieces honoring him on his death.

This is the World Premier Recording that produced such a stir when it appeared that it generated other 'me too' recordings by the likes of the Tallis Scholars and Ensemble Clément Janequin.

Mary Berry writes a rather candid review in Gramophone magazine that is well worth quoting:

"The Tallis Scholars sing a semitone higher than the written pitch, which is that chosen by the Huelgas Ensemble. Van Nevel cultivates a rich reedy vocal quality and the lower pitch has the advantage of encouraging deeper and darker sonorities; though the sound is more opaque, lacking the clarity of The Tallis Scholars."

Due to subtle coloring of the vocal tone with a sound more from the throat and chest, Nevel's approach to this music is richer hued and differentiated than that of the bright, and homogeneous sounding English choral groups who insist on always only ever using a head voice. The resultant warmth is for me a great relief from the more puritanical English sound. Nevel's general approach is as always deeply poetic and meditative with richly memorable phrasing of lines taken at more expansive tempi in a way that is always much more immediately communicative than icy gloss.

It should be mentioned that the practice of transposing up or down for the comfort of the singers is perfectly in keeping with standard period practice and that singing the work untransposed is no more 'historically accurate' . However, I always feel that the darker, more chiaroscuro feel of the Huelgas sonority reminds me of the feel of a lot of contemporary painters who prefer a far more somber coloring, whereas the Tallis Scholars seem to have a bright clean texture more like a Picasso or Kandinsky. Then again Peter Phillips has even gone so far as to deny that the Tallis Scholars are even an early music choir - he just wants the music to sound like he thinks it should, which is based on an ideal he learnt while at Cambridge.

Mary Berry goes on:

"Where the two choirs differ most, however, is in the last movement, the Agnus Dei. The Munich source, used by both choirs, is deficient at this point and some reconstruction is needed. Van Nevel has supplied an ingenious canonic solution to the first (and third) Agnus Dei, with its ''virtuosic and turbulent'' progression of mensural changes. He has, moreover, replaced the missing Agnus Dei II by a section from an independent Danish source, a section rejected by Peter Phillips and Francis Knights on the grounds that it was scored for six voices only and voices using different ranges from those in the rest of the Mass. The net result is that the two choirs present what amounts to two completely different final movements."

Quite correctly, Van Nevel - whose version might be preferred on this ground alone - has carried out the more ingenious and thoroughly researched reconstruction of the missing parts.

However, perhaps the most telling comment of all by Mary Berry in her comparison of the Huelgas and Tallis Scholar Brumel recordings is that "there is an infectious warmth and sense of involvement in the singing of the Belgian group". While French critics tend to go on a bit in criticizing the Tallis Scholars for their 'perfection glacée' (icy perfection), this is about as close to an admission as you could ever expect from an English critic that the Huelgas Ensemble have a warmer and more expressive sound. Interestingly, all of these comments come from her review of the Tallis Scholar's recording - where she still ends up writing more about the Huelgas Ensemble than the Tallis Scholars.

The recording by Dominique Visse with the Ensemble Clément Janequin provides a more stimulating alternative to Paul van Nevel. Visse uses 12 instruments and 12 voices with counter-tenors singing the top line whereas the Huelgas Ensemble include only 4 instruments and sopranos take the top lines. The result is a more colorful and vibrant performance of the sort you would expect from an excellent French early music group such as this. The results are fascinating - lower pitched and darker in timbre though just as brilliant in the final effect.

The accompanying Sequentia 'Dies irae' on the version by the Huelgas Ensemble is also a fascinating work although much darker and medieval in feel and makes a worthy filler for this superb and now remastered CD - doubtless a recognition of its classical status. For despite some serious competition from rivals who all have their merits the Huelgas Ensemble's recording is the place you should start if you are coming to this work for the first time.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
world premiere on record Feb. 6 2004
By Holy Olio - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
When this masterpiece opens it's like the sun coming up in the mind's eye. I've had this recording since 1990 I think, and it never gets old, despite the fact that it was written in the 15th or early 16th century. Remarkably, part of the work was lost for nearly five hundred years, and its rediscovery sometime in the late 1980s made this recording possible.

Upon hearing this, it's easy to believe that Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys) was inspired by music like this, especially when he made some comments to that effect quite a few years ago.

As one might expect from its era, this work is ecclesiastical in origin, written as a mass. It's entirely a cappella. On the other hand, the final track, "Dies trae Dies illa", is performed on trombones, is a separate work, and I find it easy to skip listening to it.

Ecclesiastical music is much more palatable to me when it is in a language I don't understand. While I find Handel's "The Messiah" stirring, I find Brumel much more satisfying. Those who enjoy "The Messiah" will also enjoy "Et ecce terrae motus", but they are not particularly similar. Also, due to the language barrier (for those who don't know Latin), there's no seasonal taint to the Brumel.

The original release has great sound quality, I would suppose that the remastered version sounds even better, and is a steal at this price, or really any other price. There appear to be a couple of other recorded versions available, but I've not heard them. I'm sure the long-overdue renewed interest in the long-dead composer is a sign of good things to come.

The booklet includes quite fascinating liner notes.
Relentlessly beautiful Aug. 9 2013
By essmac - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Thanks to Sator for the review, it really stands out from the usual Amazon review by getting at the questions that a serious collector wants answered. God bless the Tallis Scholars, I won't have a word said against them, but the comments about sopranos overbalancing all other voices is well made. This Huelgas performance is gorgeous and rich, perhaps at the expense of some clarity in the densely contrapuntal sections. So better to listen to both Huelgas and the Scholars for their "icy perfection"; though it's hard not to be utterly seduced by the Huelgas' sound. The lower male voices produce a sumptuously swoony sound, something that you usually need a fine Russian chorus to get. And without darkening their sound, the upper voices find a lovely clarity and vibrancy that never turns strident. The Amen at the end of the Gloria will make you tingle, it makes me think of the narcotic effect that Wagner alarmists applied to his music. If you are anyone who has ever sung this kind of music, you know what I mean when I say that it would be the greatest experience I can imagine to be a part of such a performance. And now, I will be forced to listen to all the Huelgas recordings and probably buy most of them.

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