WORKS: Missa Sancti Jacobi
PERFORMER: Cappella Pratensis/Rebecca Stewart
CATALOGUE NO: RIC 212
This is the sixth disc in this series devoted to ‘Flemish’ musical masters. Dufay, the greatest composer of the 15th century, probably wrote his St James Mass in the 1420s for Bishop Emiliani of Vicenza; it is (with its accompanying Introit, Alleluia, Offertory and Communium) one of his longest and most compelling works. However, the lengthiness has to be treated with care, and this recording is sometimes grindingly slow. After all, another version by the Binchois Consort on Hyperion (reviewed July 1998) manages to include an extra two Mass movements and two more motets in addition to the items recorded here.
There is, though, a kind of vision behind the Cappella Pratensis recording. The group wishes, we are told, to take an ‘Italian’ approach with phrasing based on a long-to-short pattern and with a flexible approach to tempo. This can produce some magical moments of expressive reverence (as in the Gloria), but too often (as in the motet Rite maiorem) one suspects that the suddenly slow tempi are
the result of technical limitations. Believers may see more in this performance than I do, but my recommendation is to trust in the Binchois Consort and ignore false prophets. Anthony Pryer