The Quest for English Polyphony through the 15th Century
29th May in Oxford & 1st June in London
A programme of dazzling French songs from the late 14th century and Machaut's famous Messe de Nostre Dame
20th June, St Mary Magdalen Church, Oxford
Join us in St Mary Magdalen’s Church for a programme of dazzling French songs from the late 14th century, as well as the famous Messe de Nostre Dame by the great poet-musician, Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300 – 1377).
The songs transmitted in the Chantilly Codex are known for their infamous rhythmic challenges, the often-abstracted approach to tonality, and their stunning beauty. Be transported back to fourteenth-century courtly culture with lyrics expressing unrequited love, mythology, battle-cries, and the smokiness of Parisian society!
The Machaut Mass is the earliest surviving polyphonic mass cycle by a single known composer – its six extraordinary movements capture the height of sacred polyphonic technique in the mid-fourteenth century. The use of four-voice texture allowed for new and elaborate colours hitherto unknown to mass composition, and its sheer scale and invention is testament to the personal value this music most likely held for the composer towards the end of his life.
5th March 2019 - Quit Timet Deum: Lassus - Cantiones Sacrae Sex Vocum and Gesualdo – Tenebrae Responsoria for Holy Week
Qui Timet Deum follows a programme of music for six voices by the renaissance composers Orlande de Lassus (1532-1594) and Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613).
The Cantiones Sacrae Sex Vocum by Lassus is the composer’s final book of motets, published in the year of his death. The collection features some of his most accomplished and beautiful compositions, setting music to a range of texts and themes.
Gesualdo’s collection of responsories for Holy Week deals with texts that follow the evocative story of Jesus’s crucifixion. His music captures the intense emotional conflicts associated with Christ’s death through the use of jarring dissonances and warped tonal progressions – the hallmarks of his later style.
9th February 2019 - Ockeghem’s Missa Caput: The music of Jean de Ockeghem and Leonel Power
Jean de Ockeghem (d.1497) is considered the most famous and influential composer of the second-generation Franco-Flemish school. Almost certainly written in the 1440s, early in Ockeghem’s career, the Missa Caput contains some of his most beautiful and unusual counterpoint. It is a wonderful example of the sort of experimentation which ushered in the era of musical renaissance in the fifteenth century.
Leonel Power (d.1445) represents an earlier generation – born in England in the late fourteenth-century, Power and his probably younger compatriot John Dunstaple were both highly influential in culivating a new musical aesthetic. Power’s style combines characteristically-English rich sonorities with French rhythmic intricacy and invention. The composer and theorist Johannes Tinctoris (c.1435-1511) comments in his Proportionale Musices (1472-3) on the ‘new art’, and credits the English (and particularly Dunstaple) as its fons et origo (fount and origin). The programme features some of Power’s polyphonic motets and antiphons.
3rd November 2018 - Dufay’s Missa Ave Regina Caelorum
Dufay’s last surviving mass, Missa Ave Regina Caelorum, represents the breathtaking culmination of his musical career, boasting both established late-medieval gothic technique and the beauty and clarity of the new Renaissance art. The Mass movements will be interspersed by some of Dufay’s motets, contrasting the unique colours beholden to the various stages of his life.