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Cipriano DE RORE (1516 - 1565): Missa Praeter rerum seriem

Huelgas Ensemble
Dir: Paul Van Nevel

rec: July 2001, Domart-en-Ponthieu, Eglise
Harmonia mundi - HMA 1951760 (R) ( 2014) (64'39")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics not included
Cover & track-list

Calami sonum ferentes 4 (M VI,108), motet; Dissimulare etiam sperasti 5-7 (M VI,6), motet; Mia benigna fortuna 4 (M IV,79), madrigal [2]; Missa Praeter rerum seriem 7 (M VII,55); Mon petit coeur 8 (M VIII,8), chanson; Plange quasi virgo 5 (M I,63), motet [1]; Schiet'arbuscel 4 (M IV,60), madrigal [2]; Se ben il duol 5 (M IV,107), madrigal [3]
[M refers to Cipriano de Rore, Opera omnia, ed. B. Meier, CMM, xiv, 195977]

Sources: [1] Motetta, 1545; [2] Il secondo libro de madregali, 1557; [3] Il quarto libro d'imadregali, 1557

Julie Cooper, Ccile Kempenaers, Els Van Laethem, soprano; Marie-Claude Vallin, contralto; Steve Dugardin, alto; Paul Kirby, Christoph Burmeister, Albert van Ommen, Matthew Vine, tenor; Lieven Termont, baritone; Lieven De Roo, Peter Dijkstra, Donald Bentvelsen, Marc Busnel, bass

In 1566 the Venetian printer Gardano published the fifth book of madrigals by Cipriano de Rore. In his preface he expressed his admiration for the composer: "[To] Josquin, we owe the delectable art of song in several voices; to Mouton, the true art of contrapuntal variation, and to Willaert, the art of sweet harmonies. But to Cipriano, the unique, heaven granted the gift of blending all three in one". He was only one who admired De Rore who was generally held in high esteem and whose madrigals impressed and influenced such significant composers of later generations as Orlandus Lassus and Claudio Monteverdi.

De Rore was from Flanders; his name is not latinized as it appears in documents from his birthplace Ronse (Renaix) as early as around 1400. Nothing is known for sure about his early musical education. It has been suggested that he was a pupil of Willaert, but there is no documentary evidence for that. For the most part of his life De Rore lived in Italy. The first sign of his presence are documents from 1542 according to which he lived in Brescia. It is not known what exactly his position was. The next stage of his career took place in Ferrara where he was in the service of Duke Ercole II d'Este as maestro di cappella from around 1546 until 1558. Within that period about half of his total output was published. Rore was especially famous for his madrigals. He had already several books of madrigals published before his arrival in Ferrara, and during his time there he published several further collections. Many also appeared in anthologies of various publishers - an indication that they were in high demand. Rore also had a strong influence on the performing conditions at the court in Ferrara. Only one year after his appointment as maestro di cappella the number of singers and instrumentalists increased.

Most pieces on the present disc date from Rore's years in Ferrara. The motet Plange quasi virgo is from a book with motets of 1545 and the sombre text - "Weep like a virgin, my people (...) for the day of the Lord will come, that great day and most bitter" - is reflected by the scoring for low voices. The chanson which opens the programme, Mon petit coeur, is from an anthology of 1550, but its authenticity is doubtful.

The main work is the Missa Praeter rerum seriem for seven voices which was already considered a masterpiece in Rore's time. It is based on Josquin's famous motet which was also used by other composers. This mass is not only a parody mass, but also includes a cantus firmus. The latter is written in long note-values on a text in honour of his employer, Duke Ercole. A sign of the admiration for this mass is the fact that Lassus performed it in the Bavarian court chapel on the occasion of the wedding of Prince Wilhelm and Rene of Lorraine.

Lassus was one of the admirers of Rore; another was Monteverdi. That is easy to understand if one listens to some of the madrigals and secular motets performed here. One of the latter is Calami sonum ferentes which is set for four basses and in which Rore experiments with chromaticism. The frequency with which he employs that technique was unusual at that time. It is one of the pieces that demonstrate Rore's interest in a close connection between text and music. That is what must have inspired Monteverdi. In Lassus's oeuvre we meet the same interest in the musical expression of a text.

In 1558 Rore returned to Flanders. Shortly thereafter his employer died and although he offered his services to his successor, Duke Alfonso, another composer was appointed as the new maestro di cappella. Rore spent the last stage of his life in Parma, although he seems not to have been completely happy there. He failed in his attempts to be appointed as Willaert's successor in San Marco in Venice. He died unexpectedly in Parma in 1565.

This disc was originally released in 2002. At the time not that many discs with his music were available, and it seems that little has changed in that regard. That is a great shame as this disc includes brilliant pieces which whet the appetite for more. This reissue is therefore most welcome, but it is regrettable that it omits the lyrics. That is a serious flaw given that words are so important in Rore's oeuvre.

The performances are outstanding: Van Nevel always pays much attention to the text and to every detail in the musical discourse, including the pronunciation which differs dependent on the character of the piece. The intonation is perfect which is especially important because of Rore's experiments with harmony. The pure intonation guarantees that a piece like Dissimulare etiam sperasti, on a text from Virgil's Aeneid, which is largely homophonic, comes off perfectly.

If you are interested in this music do try to purchase the original release which includes lyrics and translations. It may still be available here or there. If that is impossible this disc will do; the music will surely impress, and you may find some or all of the texts on the internet.

Johan van Veen ( 2015)

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