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COMPOSERS: Tinctoris
LABELS: Cypres
WORKS: Missa L’homme armé; Missa Sine nomine
PERFORMER: The Clerks’ Group/Edward Wickham
The long-lived Flemish composer Johannes Tinctoris is most celebrated in musicological circles not for his compositions but for the fact that he wrote the first musical dictionary in 1495, and a number of treatises on topics such as the rules of polyphony and the history of music. Besides the musical examples that he composed specifically for these treatises, only four Mass settings, four motets and nine secular pieces by him survive. He is known to have worked at Cambrai Cathedral, Dufay’s home territory, in Orleans, and ultimately in Naples, for King Ferdinand of Aragon.


The two works here testify to Tinctoris’s consummate craftsmanship and elegance of line. Edward Wickham invests the four-voice Missa L’homme armé – found in a Vatican manuscript of 1492, and based on the same song as examples by Josquin et al – with a sense of vigour rather than meditation, though the Agnus Dei is, in the traditional way of things, spacious and lovely. The three-voice Missa Sine nomine is dark-textured – the tessitura extends well below the modern bass clef – and rhythmically craggy, closer to Ockeghem’s world than, say, Josquin’s.


The singing (a maximum of two voices per part) is clean, distinguished from the normal ultra-refined sound of other English groups by one voice in particular, a thinnish tenor that penetrates the texture like a laser beam, but that elucidates rather than disrupts. Good, focused but warm recording. Stephen Pettitt