Ockeghem • Sørensen

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COMPOSERS: Ockeghem; Sørensen
LABELS: Dacapo
ALBUM TITLE: Ockeghem • Sørensen
WORKS: Ockeghem: Missa pro defunctis; Sørensen: Fragments of Requiem
PERFORMER: Ars Nova Copenhagen/Paul Hillier


Recordings interspersing early Mass settings with compositions by contemporary composers are not uncommon. But this album is unusual in that Danish composer Bent Sørensen was commissioned by Paul Hillier to meld Ockeghem’s Requiem with pieces he had already written: Recordare (2002), Lacrimosa (1985) and In Paradisum (2002). In 2007, Sørensen composed some further music and interpolated plainchant (the Rex Tremendae, Juste Judex and the Agnus Dei) to complete the concept.

The sensuous pleasure of the 15th-century Ockeghem arises from the melodies, whose grace, along with the beauty of the harmonies, Ars Nova Copenhagen vividly brings out. Sørensen’s own pre-existing compositions focus on sonorities. Sometimes bleak, this music could sound emotionless in less skilled hands, but Hillier and Ars Nova imbue it with real feeling, bringing out the subtle colours of the scoring. The clarity and sharp-focus of the singers’ enunciation never neglects human warmth.

Sørensen achieves a convincing transition between the two styles, using the plainchant as a kind of mediation. The choir negotiates the differences impeccably: witness, for example, the move from Sørensen’s Responsorium to Ockeghem’s Requiem aeternam, and their seamless movement between the alternating plainsong and Sørensen in the Sequentia.

Sørensen specifies the positioning of the choir and individual voices: the outstanding performances and recording vividly bring out this spatial aspect of the music in both SACD and stereo.


Barry Witherden