Johannes REGIS. Opera omnia
The Clerks

musique en wallonie

Musique en Wallonie MEW 0848/9


1. Celsitonantis ave genitrix ~ Abrahae fit promissio  [7:21]

Missa Ecce ancilla Domini ~ Ne timeas Maria
2. Kyrie  [4:29]
3. Gloria  [7:46]
4. Credo  [12:33]
5. Sanctus et Benedictus  [10:09]
6.Agnus Dei  [5:25]

7.Ave Maria virgo serena à 5  [7:33]
8.Ave Maria à 3  [2:27]
9. Lux solemnis ~ Repleti sunt omnes  [10:14]


1. Clangat plebs  [7:25]

Missa L'homme armé ~ Dum sacrum mysterium
2. Kyrie  [4:03]
3. Gloria  [7:32]
4. Credo  [7:44]
5. Sanctus et Benedictus  [6:24]
6. Agnus Dei  [4:04]

Motets et chansons
7. Lauda Syon salvatorem ~ Ego sum panis vivus  [6:24]
8. Puisque ma damme ~ Je m'en voy  [2:01]
9. S'il vous plaist  [1:34]
10. Patrem vilayge  [3:51]
11. O admirabile commercium ~ Verbum caro  [7:34]

The Clerks
Edward Wickham

Carys Lane, Helen Neeves - soprano
Lucy Ballard, Ruth Massey - alto
Tom Raskin, Christopher Watson - ténor
Jonathan Arnold, Robert Macdonald, Edward Wickham - basse


Légendes des illustrations
Couverture : Rogier van der Weyden (Rogier de la Pasture) (atelier), L'annonciation, ca. 1440,
huile sur panneau de chêne, 0,86 x 0,93m, Paris, Musée du Louvre (Inv. 1982), © RMN / Gérard Blot.
Notice :
1. S'il vous plaist, Chansonnier de Jean de Montchenu (chansonnier cordiforme), Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Rothschild 2973, f. 20v. et 21r.
2. Collégiale Saint-Vincent de Soignies, © Gil Bergeret, Commune de Soignies.
3. Missa Ecce ancilla Domini, Kyrie, Bruxelles, Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, Ms. 5557, f. 121v. et 122 r.
4. Clangat plebs, Rome, Bibliothèque apostolique vaticane, Chigi C VIII, 234, f. 281v.


Édition préparée par Sean Gallagher et Jesse Rodin, à l'exception de la plage 7 du CD 1 préparée par Theodore Dumitrescu.
Leofranc Holford-Strevens a édité les textes latins et fourni les traductions anglaises des plages 1 et 9 du CD 1 et des plages 1 et 11 du CD2.
The Clerks souhaite remercier ces érudits pour leur collaboration à ce projet.

Nous remercions Madame Nadine Henrard pour la traduction des textes en ancien français, CD 2, plages 8 et 9, et Monsieur Jean-Paul Schyns pour la traduction des textes latins de la Missa Ecce ancilla Domini et de la Missa L'homme armé.

Remerciements à Monsieur Goossens et à la Bibliothèque royale de Belgique.

Production: Musique en Wallonie, ULg, quai Roosevelt 1B à 4000 Liège - Belgique (
Enregistrement: 27 au 30 août 2007, Chapelle du collège Sainte-Catherine, Cambridge
Prise de son et montage: Gemini Sound
Directeurs de projet: Philippe Vendrix et Christophe Pirenne
Graphisme: Valérian Larose
Réalisé avec le concours du Ministère de la Communauté française de Belgique (Service général des Arts de la scène - Service Musique)


JOHANNES REGIS. Masses, motets and chansons

In a famous passage from his 1477 treatise on counterpoint, Johannes Tinctoris noted the remarkable flourishing of musical composition in his day and singled out five of his contemporaries for special praise :

Johannes Okeghem, Johannes Regis, Anthonius Busnoys, Firminus Caron, and Guillermus Faugues... these men's works exhale such sweetness that, in my opinion, they should be considered most worthy, not only for men and heroes, but even for the immortal gods. Certainly I never listen to them or study them without coming away more refreshed and wiser. Just as Virgil took Homer as his model in his divine work, the Aeneid, so by Hercules do I use these as models for my own small productions...

High praise indeed. Today two of these five, Ockeghem and Busnoys, would still figure very high on anyone's list of fifteenth-century composers. Outside of specialist circles, however, Regis, Caron and Fougues remain little more than names. In itself this fact is unsurprising; the history of music records no shortage of composers much admired by contemporaries whose works have for various reasons fallen by the wayside. But Tinctoris is a writer whose opinions should be taken seriously. He was remarkably well informed about the music of his time, quick to criticize what he did not like, and judging from the citations found in his treatises, he had studied many of these composers' works down to the most minute level of detail. If he considered them to be of equal stature to Ockeghem and Busnoys, the time is long overdue to at least give them another hearing.

Tinctoris cites Dunstaple, Binchois, and Du Fay, "all recently passed from this life," as teachers of his five worthy composers. His description may have been intended as a rhetorical flourish, but in the case of Regis, many of whose works are recorded here for the first time, there might well be some truth in the claim. Certainly he is the only one of the five known to have had extended contact with both Binchois and Du Fay. Regis is documented from 1451 as master of the choristers at the collegiate church of St. Vincent in Soignies (in Hainaut, diocese of Cambrai). Soignies was a musical center of some importance, one with close ties to the Burgundian court. In 1453, after many years of service in the Burgundian chapel, Binchois was himself appointed by Duke Philip the Good to the provostship of St. Vincent, where he remained until his death in 1460. He and Regis thus served in the same chapter for most of the 1450s, in circumstances that would have been conducive to some kind of teacher-student relationship: Regis was still young, probably in his mid-twenties, while the much older Binchois was by then one of the most renowned composers in Europe.

Just weeks after Binchois's death, Regis came into contact with Du Fay. In November 1460 Regis was invited to take up the position of choirmaster at the renowned Cambrai Cathedral. But he hesitated. Du Fay, who was head of the musical establishment there, led long negotiations over the next two years in an attempt to persuade him to come, but in the end Regis stayed at Soignies. There he was named scholasticus, a musical position at St. Vincent equivalent to that of cantor, which he held until his death in 1496. But he remained in touch with Du Fay throughout the 1460s and early 1470s, and following the older composer's death in 1474 Regis founded an annual commemorative mass at St. Vincent in his honour. The two composers clearly knew one another's music : several of Regis's works were copied at Cambrai in the early 1460s, while Du Fay's music served as an important point of reference for Regis.

Nowhere is his engagement with the music of Du Fay more apparent than in his two surviving masses. His Missa Ecce ancilla Domini / Ne timeas Maria and Du Fay's Missa Ecce ancilla Domini / Beata es Maria both use the same rare version of the antiphon Ecce ancilla and both are early examples of masses that employ more than one cantus firmus, a practice that would become more common towards the end of the century (especially in the masses of Obrecht). Regis actually expands upon this aspect of Du Fay's mass. Whereas Du Fay limits himself to just two Marian antiphons and presents them in alternation in the tenor, Regis consistently combines his two main cantus firmi and then adds five further antiphons, often transposed and in various combinations. For all these similarities, the overall sound image of Regis's mass differs considerably from that of Du Fay's, owing partly to its frequent juxtaposition of the major and minor thirds above the final. He favors a recurring melodic gesture in the superius that descends to the final by way of subtle shifts between the major and minor third, conveying at times a haunting sense of closure (as at the very end of the mass). Elsewhere (as in the first sections of the Credo and Sanctus) the effect is more harmonic in nature and the shift is reversed, with minor giving way to major, broadening in pace and opening into shimmering moments of near stasis.

Perhaps the most striking passage in the mass comes in the Credo: a series of held sonorities at the words vivos et mortuos ("to judge the living and the dead"). These may also provide a hint as to the original function of the cycle. No other fifteenth-century mass highlights this phrase in such a manner. The emphasis on "the living and the dead" of a community of believers points to the environment of a confraternity, one of the main functions of which was to aid the souls of its deceased members. Given that both Regis's and Du Fay's Ecce ancilla masses were included in the Burgundian choirbook Brussels, Bibl. royale, MS 5557, we might seek their origins in that grandest of confraternities, the Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece, whose meetings included the celebration of a Marian mass.

The Missa L'homme armé / Dum sacrum mysterium is if anything even more impressive in its handling of multiple cantus firmi. Here Regis explicitly links the image of "the armed man" with the warrior archangel St. Michael by setting textual excerpts of the Michael antiphon Dum sacrum mysterium to the famous L'homme armé tune. This symbolic doubling of the "armed man" is even embedded in the musical fabric: throughout much of the mass the melody is presented in loosely canonic fashion in two voices (another expansion on the practice of Du Fay, in whose own Missa L'homme armé the cantus firmus is briefly set in canon). As the cycle proceeds, the references to Michael multiply through the introduction of five further melodies and / or texts from the saint's Office. Regis sets certain of these texts in relief (e.g., the words Michael praepositus paradisi in the Kyrie), allowing them to emerge clearly from the surrounding mass text. His interest in coloring certain sonorities through the frequent (at times startling) use of sharps and flats is again much in evidence. But the effect is rather different from the pungent cross-relations heard in his Ecce ancilla mass. Here the brief motto that in various forms opens each of the five movements has a surprisingly 'modem' sound in terms of its harmonies (indeed the beginning of the Sanctus would not sound much out of place in an early seventeenth-century liturgical work). The series of sustained sonorities at the end of the Agnus Dei provides another good example: there the 'deceptive' cadence deepens the sense of the cycle as a whole coming to a close.

A "missa sus l'ome arme" by Regis was copied at Cambrai Cathedral in M62, that is, near the end of the long negotiations to bring him there as master of the choristers. This is in fact the earliest known reference to any mass based on the L'homme armé tune. It has been suggested Regis must have composed two L'homme armé masses, the Dum sacrum mysterium mass and an earlier one, now lost, to which this Cambrai document refers. However this now seems unlikely to be the case. Recent research has revealed considerable evidence for the Dum sacrum mysterium mass having been composed for Cambrai Cathedral, specifically in connection with a service for the feast of St. Michael founded in the late 1450s by Michel de Beringhen, canon of the cathedral and longtime colleague of Du Fay. Another work Regis may have composed for Cambrai is his Patrem vilayge. More modest in scope than the Credos of the two cycles, this work includes a paraphrase of the Credo I chant, principally in the two inner voices. Its only manuscript source is one copied at Cambrai a generation after Regis's death. All the other works in the manuscript are by much younger composers, suggesting Regis's piece might have been included because it had already long been in the cathedral's collection of polyphony. A distinctive feature of the work is its fairly extreme form of text telescoping, with as many as three different phrases of the text being sung simultaneously (including the surprising coincidence of the words Et resurrexit and Crucifixus!).

Regis's best known works during his lifetime were his five-voice motets. Before about 1470 music in more than four voices was very rare, and Regis's large-scale cantus firmus motets represent the earliest sustained attempt to compose in five parts. The inclusion of an 'extra' voice (offen set as a second low part beneath the tenor) allowed him to explore his evident interest in textural contrasts and sonorous effects of various kinds. Younger composers came to recognize the potential of this Regis-type motet, and his works would later serve as models for five-voice motets by Obrecht, Josquin, Weerbeke, and others. Regis's precedence in five-voice composition is reflected in Petrucci's Motetti a cinque, a collection published a dozen years after the composer's death, which includes four of his motets (more than any other composer represented), among them his Clangor plebs flores / Sicut lilium, which opens the collection.

Thirty years before Petrucci, Tinctoris had cited Clangat plebs as one of a handful of pieces that exemplified the theorist's compositional ideal of varietas. The word can be interpreted in different ways, but from Tinctoris's comments and the music he cites, his aim was to highlight a mode of composing. Using a range of techniques, contemporary composers could work out a sequence of musical passages, each having its own localized sense of regularity and coherence, the nature of which was continually changing. In the case of Clangat plebs, Regis took a generic blueprint for a tenor motet - with a division into two large sections (one in perfect time, the other imperfect) and a liturgical cantus firmus set mostly in longer note values in the middle of the texture - and gave it shape partly by means of a near systematic shifting of voice groupings. The technique is effective because it is so clearly audible, as at the beginning of the motet's secunda pars ("Carmina condentem"). Short phrases regularly alternate between the two upper voices and all five. The tenor then drops out, the duos become longer and move between the upper and lower pairs of voices. With its return the tenor takes on a new function, participating in a loose type of paired imitation. This texture gives way in turn to four voices, then all five, with a third and final statement of the tenor cantus firmus propelling the work to its close.

Comparable techniques can be heard in all the motets, though it is impressive how even among works sharing general features Regis is able to give each a distinctive character. Lux solemnis / Repleti sunt omnes, like Clangat plebs and Lauda Syon salvatorem / Ego sum panis vivus, is a D-mode work with a low notated range (the bassus in all three motets frequently descends to low D). But unlike the other two works, which begin with the expected duos and trios, Lux solemnis starts with a very full four-voice texture to which the tenor is soon added, resulting in one of the most majestic opening paragraphs in all fifteenth-century music. Elsewhere the motet is more declamatory in tone, as in the emphatic culminating gestures at the ends of its two partes, and especially at the series of verbs "imbuit, illustrat, disponit", where the upper voice briefly takes on the quality of a psalm recitation, enlivened by a pair of more active voices below. In Lauda Syon salvatorem, the secunda pars begins with an essentially homophonic presentation of beautifully balanced phrases before moving on to other textural possibilities. Celsitonantis ave genitrix / Abrahae fit promissio - a bright, G-mode motet addressed to the Virgin Mary - contains passages shaped as much by textual concerns as musical ones. Recurring gestures in the upper voice capture a sense of "the angelic choir" as it "praises, cherishes, and reveres" the Virgin, while at the end of the prima pars the unexpectedly subdued scoring is apparently a response to "the sinful soul that rejoices to have found through thee the entry to peace."

Three of the motets depart from his usual approach. O admirabile commercium, memorably described by Reinhard Strohm as a 'huge Christmas pie,' is the only of his motets with multiple cantus firmi, among them the popular cantio Resonet in laudibus. This is his most energetic work, as well as his most virtuosic, full of syncopated rhythms and exuberant interjections. The five-voice Ave Maria.. .virgo serena sounds at first as if it might date from a generation later than his other works. Gone is the long-note cantus firmus in the tenor, replaced by a texture in which all voices are equally active throughout, and the use of imitation is greater and more consistent than in his other music. The similarity between its opening phrase and that of Josquin's four-voice Ave Maria.. .virgo serena has often been noted. Whether one served as model for the other, and if so, which came first, are questions that may never be convincingly answered, not least because the dating of Regis's motets remains uncertain. That Regis was a full generation older than Josquin might suggest the direction of influence, but cannot by itself confirm it. What can be noted, however, is that on closer inspection Regis's piece is not so very far removed from his other motets. Rather it is as if the frequent textural contrasts and quasi-antiphonal voice pairings found in the cantus firmus motets has here been streamlined and regularized. Regis's little three-voice Ave Maria provides yet another facet of his work. The texture is that of a chanson, and its veiled, overlapping cadences and melodic sequences bring it closer to Busnoys than any of Regis's other pieces. Even here, however, the colors of certain harmonies recall his own grand motets.

The two chansons make one regret that not more of Regis's secular music has survived. Both reveal novel twists on the conventions of midfifteenth-century song. Much of S'il vous plaist utilizes only pairs of voices, rather than all three, and so manages to be texturally interesting even within such narrow constraints. Puisque ma dame / Je m'en voy, for four voices, is a pristine example of carefully gauged melodic contours, the simplicity of which makes its unexpected accidentals all the more affecting.

The works recorded here make a persuasive case that Tinctoris was justified in his high assessment of Regis. Their breadth of invention reveal him to have been not merely a very skilled composer, but one of the most distinctive and original voices of the period.