WORKS: Missa Ecce ancilla; Salve Regina; Déploration sur la mort de Johannes Ockeghem
PERFORMER: The Clerks’ Group/Edward Wickham
CATALOGUE NO: PROU CD 133 DDD
The Clerks’ Group (formed from Oxford and Cambridge choral scholars) is a young choir. For this recording they have set themselves quite a challenge: music from the Flemish Renaissance, that wonderful later-15th century flowering of talented composers and musicians, which spread its influence throughout Europe.
Ockeghem’s Missa Ecce ancilla is the main work on this disc but, for me, this is the least successful performance. The movements are quite long, and it is hard for any choir to sustain interest during the sequence of unfolding textures and melodic material. The men’s voices of The Clerks’ Group make an excellent effort, though there are moments of slightly weak intonation, especially in the sections for solo voices. There is a rather unsuccessful moment, too, when all voices drop to a sotto voce for the ‘Et incarnatus’ section of the Credo. This simulation of the congregational kneeling interrupts the music’s flow.
The shorter pieces, such as Ockeghem’s late motet Intemerata Dei Mater and Josquin’s Déploration (written as a lament on the death of Ockeghem) do not suffer from this problem, and come off better for it. Obrecht’s extended setting of the Salve Regina is particularly good. Edward Kershaw