COMPOSERS: La Rue
ALBUM TITLE: La Rue
WORKS: Missa Nuncqua fue pena mayor; Salve regina VI; Missa Inviolata; Magnificat sexti toni
PERFORMER: The Brabant Ensemble/Stephen Rice
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 68150
The Brabant Ensemble is famous for its enterprising exploration of the byways of 16th-century polyphony. Many of the ensemble’s recordings must be world premieres, and so it would seem to be with these two masses by Pierre de la Rue (d1518),
a composer who worked for a branch of the Hapsburg dynasty.
The Missa Nuncqua fue pena mayor is based on a popular song by Johannes Urrede and is full of ingenious manipulations of the original material. We could have experienced that more directly had they ditched the recording of Salve Regina VI and included that song, and also the plainsong upon which the second Mass on this disc is based. Even so, these are perfectly tuned and thoughtful performances that capture the sonorous and seamless nature of La Rue’s music (except for some odd moments in the Gloria of the Missa Nuncqua), and project his intricate textures with clarity (as in the Magnificat sexti toni). La Rue cannot match the ingenuity of his great contemporary Josquin des Prez (there is hardly a harmonic surprise anywhere), but recordings such as these allow us to ask the question: ‘What can we know of Josquin if we only Josquin know?’