WORKS: Missa Rex seculorum
PERFORMER: Orlando Consort
CATALOGUE NO: MET CD 1009 DDD
In the CD note, Margaret Bent claims that Dunstaple was more influential than any other English composer before the Beatles. His music was admired by Continental composers for its richness and sonority – qualities which are as appealing today as they were in the 15th century. Reflecting the slant of Dunstaple’s output, the entire disc is of sacred music, with several pieces recorded for the first time, including a newly discovered canonic Gloria, the beautiful Song of Songs text ‘Descendi in ortum meum’, and the Mass Rex seculorum. This repertoire presents modern performers with quite a challenge, and the Orlandos are earnest rather than ardent interpreters. While they do nothing to offend, they are in danger of lapsing into a sort of all-purpose ‘sacred’ style, with a uniformity of tempo, dynamic and mood: the imprint of any musical personality is sadly lacking. That said, this is still the most reliable and certainly the most comprehensive Dunstaple recording currently available.
The sound has a pleasing warmth, close enough to hear individual voice parts clearly, though occasionally there could be more focus on the bass and less on the countertenor, who naturally dominates the texture. Kate Bolton