LABELS: Musique en Wallonie
WORKS: Missa Ecce ancilla Domini/Ne timeas Maria; Missa L’homme armé/Dum sacrum mysterium; Celsitonantis ave gentrix/Abrahae fit promissio; Motets & chansons
PERFORMER: The Clerks/Edward Wickham
CATALOGUE NO: MEW 0848-0849
Johannes Regis was one of the most skilful composers of the 15th century. He was widely admired and spent most of his life running the choir and training other composers at Soignies in the Walloon area of Belgium (hence the CD label). These are not quite the ‘complete’ works.
There has been no attempt to reconstruct the missing voice from the five-part Salve sponsa, for example, and it’s not included. Nor is Averosa speciosa which survives anonymously, but which is sometimes attributed to Regis.
These are truly impressive performances. The Credo of the Missa Ecce ancilla Domini demonstrates The Clerks’s precise tuning (in the odd harmonies of ‘ante omnia’), their sense of drama (at ‘vivos et mortuous’), and their high-wire poise across the ecstatic long lines of the duet sections.
In the Sanctus and Agnus of Missa l’homme armé we are offered some beautiful dark chordal shifts, and in Lauda Syon there is sensitivity to the supplicatory mood.
Lux solemnis, though, seems to puzzle them slightly; they produce a somewhat mechanical negotiation of the notes in spite of the climax they pull out of the bag at the end.
The sound is bright and clean, though in places (such as track 1) too dry and aggressive. Even so, these performances provide brilliant advocacy for a good, if little known composer. Anthony Pryer