Le miroir de musique, Baptiste Romain
Primarily known as a musical theorist, it is perhaps unsurprising that with the increasing amount of his music available on CD Johannes Tinctoris has gradually emerged as an accomplished and prolific composer in his own right. In an intriguing and highly informative programme note David Fallows attempts to follow the composer’s erratic progress across Europe and to tie this in with his various sacred and secular compositions. At one point a series of rapid ‘yo-yo swings’ back and fore across many miles reminded me of a similar situation I encountered with a Renaissance composer, which turned out to involve two entirely separate people! In Tinctoris’ case the surprising conclusion is that the bulk of his compositions and theoretical works all date from one brief period in the 1470s when he was in Naples – an interesting lesson for those of us tempted to spread composition dates throughout the often blank canvas of a Renaissance composer’s lifetime. The emerging picture of Tinctoris simply pouring out music and musical theory in one brief burst of activity must also increase the likelihood that he has something to do with the six brilliant and anonymous L’Homme Armé mass cycles from around this period associated with the Naples court. We are given the Kyrie of Tinctoris’ own brilliant L’Homme Armé mass here, as well as movements from one of his three-part Masses sine nomine. There are also motets and instrumental music both by Tinctoris and composers in his creative orbit such as the English/Scottish composer Robert Morton and Alexander Agricola, from whom we have an instrumental arrangement of music by Ockeghem. Morton, who worked with Dufay and Binchois at the Burgundian court, is largely known for his simple setting of the L’homme Armé tune (which some musicologists believe he may also have composed) but is represented here by an exquisitely lovely sung rondeau, Le souvenir de vous me tue. Taking their name from a lost theoretical work by Tinctoris, Le Miroir de Musique play and sing this music with enormous authority, producing a delightfully straight sound which brings out beautifully the subtleties of Tinctoris’ remarkable music. The vocalists are doubled up to two-to-a-part in the mass movements to produce a wonderfully rich and compelling texture, and these for me are the highlights of this highly enjoyable CD. Highly enjoyable too are the instrumental rondeaux featuring wonderfully abrasive instruments such as the rebec and the gut-strung bray harp.
D. James Ross