Dufay: Missa Se la face ay pale

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WORKS: Missa Se la face ay pale
PERFORMER: Diabolus in Musica/Antoine Guerber
Guillaume Dufay probably wrote this Mass for a wedding in the 1450s when he was working at the Court of Savoy in Chambéry. The work is based on a secular song by the composer (which is not included in this recording), and the Latin is pronounced as it was ‘at that time in Italy’ (which is a somewhat odd decision). Even so, this is a tuneful performance, sung two to a part, with clear, open textures. Moreover, other liturgical items have been added as if for a service on Trinity Sunday. There are two other recordings of this work; one by David Munrow (Virgin Veritas) and the other by the Hilliard Ensemble (Hilliard Live). This new Antoine Guerber performance is the slowest of the three, and it avoids some of the mechanical glibness of the Hilliard version. However, at certain moments in the imitative writing (at the opening of the Credo, for example), the voices do not match each other’s phrasing, and the projection can be a little solid – though not in the Alleluia which is delicate and moving. But the Munrow recording remains the best, not only for its endlessly flexible rhythms, but for its wonderful sense of musical architecture. Anthony Pryer