Johannes BRASSART (ca. 1400/05—1455)
In festo Corporis Christi / Capilla Flamenca
Ricercar 233362 | RIC 204 | I Fiamminghi V

1. Redeuntes in idem  [1:51]
anonyme, Buxheimer Orgelbuch

2. Introitus. Cibavit eos  [4:07]
3. Kyrie  [3:18]
4. Gloria  [4:25]

5. Alleluia. Caro mea  [3:03]
6. Evangelium. Caro mea  [1:45]
chant grégorien

7. Credo  [9:57]

8. Offertorium. Sacerdotes incensum  [1:38]
chant grégorien

9. Sanctus  [4:35]
10. Agnus Dei  [3:14]

11. Communio. Quoties cumque  [1:40]
chant grégorien

12. Longus tenor  [3:34]
anonyme, Buxheimer Orgelbuch

13. Te Deum  [10:38]

14. Redeuntes In Idem mi de eadem mensura  [1:31]
anonyme, Buxheimer Orgelbuch

Dirk Snellings
Marnix DE CAT, Stratton BULL, altus
Jan CAALS, Stephan VAN DYCK, tenor
Lieven TERMONT, Bart DEMUYT, tenor
Dirk SNELLINGS, Paul MERTENS, bassus

Hendrik Vanden Abeele
direction : Hendrik VANDEN ABEELE

Orgel der Reformierte Kirche in Rysum (1457-1513)

 Deze opname werd gerealiseerd met de steun van het
Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap, afdeling Muziek, Letteren en Podiumkunsten
Cet enregistrement a été réalisé avec l'aide du
Ministère de la Communauté Flamande, département de la Musique, des Lettres et des Arts de la scène.

Enregistrement : Eglise de Bolland, Septembre 1999
Prise de son et direction artistique : Jérôme LEJEUNE
Production : Jérôme LEJEUNE
Ilustration du recto : Miniature extraite du Ms. GEN 288 (fol.38v),
Glasgow, University Library
Merci à Katrien Smeyers
(Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Miniaturisten, K.U. Leuven)
pour son aide dans le choix de cette illustration.
Edicion M10 Distribution

© & Ⓟ 2000 RICERCAR

Corpus Christi in Tongres, 1444
with works by Johannes Brassart and his contemporaries.

The Episcopal-Principality of Liège included not only the seat of the Prince Bishops but also such medium-sized towns as Tongeren, St-Truiden, Maastricht and Huy. It played a considerable role in first creating and then spreading the polyphonic style around Europe. It was in effect here in the second half of the 14th century that such executant composers as Ludovicus Sanctus of Beringen, the magister in musica to the Pope in Avignon, and Johannes Ciconia in particular laid the foundations for the expansion of a section of its cultural patrimony far beyond the borders of the archdiocese. These composers were active primarily in Italy and, to a lesser degree, in the German empire.

The work of the composers from this region attained its apogee in the first quarter of the 15th century, from a qualitative as well as from a quantitative standpoint. Composers of the time included H. Battre (based in Ciney), Johannes Brassart (of Lauw), Petrus Fabri of Rommershoven, Johannes Franchois de Gemblaco (Gembloux), the brothers Hugo and Arnoldus de Lantins, Johannes de Lymburgia, N. Natalis (singing master at St. Lambert's in Liège), Johannes Rondelli (singing master in Tongres), Nicolaus de Ruttis (Rutten) and Johannes de Sarto. A marked decline began in 1467 when the Burgundian troops attacked the archbishopric of Liège and sacked the city; the unfortunate consequences of this would be felt for a long time to come.

The prosperity of Liège musical life was certainly due to the eight collegiate churches (the cathedral included) that enriched the 'City of Fire'. Tongres also had an influential chapter of twenty canons that was partially under the wing of St. Lambert's in Liège, its mother church. A dean stood at the head of the chapter. Between the years 1381 and 1403 this was no-one less than Radulphus de Rivo, an erudite canon who had studied at the universities of Bologna and Paris and who in 1397 had been rector of the university of Cologne for a short period. He was also the author of several books on liturgical matters and greatly reformed the liturgy of the church of Notre-Dame in Tongeren. It was at his instigation that a collection of liturgical books was assembled at the end of the 14th century; it included several richly illustrated graduals, antiphoners for the two sides of the canonical choir, processionals, a manual specifically for the canons' cantor and other such works. The nucleus of this collection has survived, and it is of this that the present recording has been able to make such grateful use. The Dean of the chapter in the time of Johannes Brassart was Gisbertus de Eel (1441-1455); several important constructions were undertaken during his deanship, including a new tower in 1442 that is still standing and the north transept in 1456.

The second in the hierarchy after the dean was the canon-cantor, a function that had evolved during the 15th century into a sort of ‘master of ceremonies’ whose tasks were no longer restricted to purely practical and musical affairs. This post was taken up by master Johannes Brassart. As luck would have it, Brassart's works were known well beyond his country's frontiers and many of those that were written for the feast of Corpus Christi have been preserved. The majority of the settings of the ordinary of the mass that are performed here are from his hand.

The dean or the cantor took precedence during the services on important feasts. They were assisted by the canonical choir, of whom there were often no more than fifteen because of absences. Amongst them there were also several non-resident musicians, including Johannes Brassart (1438, 1442-44) and Henricus Tulpin (1381), also one of the Papal singers. The canons who were present were supposed to assist at all the ceremonies and to pray and to sing during the daily office and at the capitular mass. This was also so for the more than thirty chaplains, who would celebrate between one and three masses per week.

In the larger churches and the cathedrals one could also call upon the services of the “lesser canons” who were also termed “greater vicars” and who were primarily responsible for the solo passages of Gregorian chant. We cannot rule out the possibility that a small group of the better singers, probably the younger ones, would have taken the solo lines in the Gregorian chant in the smaller collegiate churches.

Another group that undoubtedly took over the more difficult sections of the chant was formed by the vicars, literally those who replaced the absent canons. A Papal Bull that was issued in 1444 and ratified in 1448 reserved six chaplaincies for these vicars. They were principally responsible for the polyphony and therefore had to be professional musicians. The highest-ranking of these was the singing master; he led the ensemble, taught the young choirboys and eventually also composed the music. Between 1440 and 1449 this was Petrus de Roest, the successor to Johannes Rondelli. Roest was removed from his position in 1449 for wrongdoing, but from the end of the same year he became attached to the collegiate church of Notre-Dame in Antwerp as vicar-singer. The second position in the hierarchy was filled by the organist, who also sang with the others when he did not have to play. The organ played either as a solo instrument or in alternation with the singers, or as accompaniment. The organist in Brassart's time was Ludovicus van den Borch (1442-1445), who played an instrument that had undergone radical rebuilding by Theodorus of Maastricht. As well as the singing master and the organist there (who) was also a bass [who] was the third in rang and three other singers that were not specified, but which almost certainly included a tenor and a countertenor.

These six professional musicians were assisted by two musician sacristans (generally former choirboys) and by four extra free-lance singers (pro 4 cantoribus alienis) whose services were hired in for high days and feasts. This group of adult musicians was assisted by six young choirboys who had been trained from an early age by the singing master. They lived in the Roman cloister, where they were lodged, fed and taught for free and also received a suitable payment. They sang not only with the adults but also performed regularly on their own account. One unusual incident from this viewpoint was their custom of singing the Gloria laus with the singing master in polyphony from the top of a platform on the tower of the church of St. Nicholas in the open air on Palm Sunday.

From the fact of the participation of various groups of musicians, the service for a religious feast of the highest (triplex) rank such as Corpus Christi took on a singularly different character. The entire church building was brought into play; what we miss the most from an acoustic point of view is the rood loft, for at that time it separated the choir from the transept and the singers would often perform polyphonic works mounted on it.

For this recording our choice settled on the feast of Corpus Christi because of the liturgical richness of this festival. It originated in Liège and was made part of Catholic ritual by Pope Urban IV, a former archdean of Liège. The office itself was written by St. Thomas Aquinas and it is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Whitsun.

We are particularly well informed on how this particular festival was celebrated in the collegiate church of Tongres, this thanks to the 15th century Liber Ordinarius that was attached by a chain (Liber catenatus) to the choir. Later versions from the 17th and 18th centuries also provided detailed information. It seems, however, that the rites remained almost unchanged across the centuries; it ran in general as follows:
Corpus Christi is considered as a feast of triplex rank, the highest rank of the religious festivals. The bells are rung and the church is fittingly decorated. The cantor and the canon of the week (the Hebdomadarius) hold the choir from each side, meaning that they intone certain chants. The liturgical feast begins the evening before with the first Vespers that take place on Wednesday at around 2.30pm, with the hymn Pange Lingua and several others being sung. Compline is then sung.

On the day of Corpus Christi itself Matins are sung at 5am with the three nocturnes, the bells having been rung since 4.30am. The lesser Hours begin with Prime at 9am, then with Tierce followed by High Mass with, amongst other music, the Introit Cibavit eos, the Gloria, the Alleluia Caro mea, the sequence Lauda Sion, the Gospel according to St. John (Caro mea), the Creed, the Offertory Sacerdotes, etc.

Sext is sung after the Mass, after which the most solemn procession of the year circulates across the city. During the procession the responses for the Blessed Sacrament, for the Trinity, for Our Lady, for the angels and for the other saints are sung. This procession must have been particularly varied and lively, given the co-operation of the burghers and the clerks. The corporations marched in front with their respective leaders, followed by several of the religious orders in Tongres. The small reliquary was borne in the middle of them by two young chaplains in turn. The religious orders sang Gregorian chant that alternated with the polyphonic music sung by the singers of the collegiate church, who followed the religious orders. After them came two canons who recited the Epistle and the Gospel for the day. They in turn were followed by the secular members of the congregation of the Blessed Sacrament with torches and crucifix, and sometimes by a second group of polyphonic singers. The other canons and chaplains then advanced with torches, followed by a choirboy with a bell in his hand. The other boys surrounded the Blessed Sacrament with thurible, reliquary and lantern. The dean, processing under a baldachin borne by the members of the magistracy, displayed the Sacrament. The musicians performed just in front of the Sacrament, while the general populace (populi turba) brought up the rear.

The procession covered a large part of the town. It left the church from the great door of St. Mary Magdalen, crossed the market, turned towards what was known as the convent with its majestic canons' apartments in order to arrive, after having passed through the rue de Maestricht, at the St. Jacques hospital. The procession continued towards the Commerput and turned via the Kiedelstrote towards the church of St. Catherine in the Beguinage. The procession then halted at St. John's church. The antiphon O sacrum convivium was sung as the procession left the church and then continued via the rue de la Monnaie towards the church of the Regulars that has since disappeared. The procession then left the centre of the city via the rue des Chats and the Steenderpoort, passed through the Kogelstraat, went along the Heymelinghen ramparts, passed the Hasselt Gate and arrived at the Maastricht gate through the rue du Sacrement. The procession then returned into the city and continued back to the principal church, re-entering it on the North side through the great door of St. Mary Magdalen. The procession halted once more and when all had arrived the cantor intoned the antiphon Sub tuam protectionem confugimus. The organ and the choir played and sang the Te Deum in alternation. The clergy returned to the choir; the dean stood at the entry to the choir and gave the benediction with the Blessed Sacrament. The Sacrament was then returned to the high altar. The second Vespers at 2.30 pm were sung as had been the first Vespers of the day before; the hymn Sacris solemniis, in its setting by Johannes Brassart, being also sung. The feast day ended with Compline, probably followed by a hymn of praise.

Our central composer is Johannes Brassart, an unjustly forgotten master of the first generation of polyphonic composers who lived in the shadow of Dufay and Binchois. It was long believed that Brassart was born in Liège or in the Italian town of Lodi, but following an indication in one of his works it is clear that he was born in the town of Lauw (de Ludo). The first recorded traces of Brassart are in the Collegiate Church of St. John the Evangelist in Liège, where he was named chaplain and ‘succentor’. He lived in Rome between 1425 and 1426, most probably because of the Jubilee Year. He later fulfilled various musical functions in the collegiate churches of St. John the Evangelist and St.Lambert in Liège, going on to win international renown as both singer and composer through his performing with Dufay in the Papal chapel (1431) and later at the Council of Basle. He was rector capelle for the Emperors Sigismund, Albert II and Frederic III at various periods between 1434 and 1443, composing official State motets for them. He suffered greatly from homesickness like many other singers from the Low Countries and wanted to return to the land of his birth. He was sometimes named canon to the collegiate church of Our Lady in Tongres and gained the position of canon and cantor there in 1444-45. He returned to Liège in 1445, where he remained a canon at St. Paul's until his death in 1455.

The style of Brassart's music is typical of the so-called Liège School, the central figure of which was Johannes Ciconia. In contrast to Dufay's music, Brassart's music was not consciously influenced by the more consonant English style of John Dunstable. Most of his works are in three parts, sometimes in four parts; all are highly varied in texture. Given that no complete Mass by Brassart has survived, for the purposes of this recording we have put together an ordinarium made up of separate pieces that embody different styles and contrasting vocal ranges. In the first place we find the so-called ‘descant-tenor’ style, in which the upper voice and the tenor are approximately equal and where there is also space for counterpoint and imitation to flourish. There is also the frequently adopted treble-dominated style, in which the upper voice dominates and the lower voices perform a more accompanying function. There is finally the simple homophonic ‘conductus’ style, in which the three voices were equal. If a cantus firmus was used then it was usually to be found paraphrased in the upper voice.

The Te Deum by Gilles Binchois is set very functionally in a simple faux-bourdon style and the piece as a whole is old-fashioned in comparison to the composer's songs. A characteristic of fifteenth-century performance practice was the alternatim, in which vocal polyphony was alternated with organ music or Gregorian chant. The organ music of the period is often characterised by fanciful ornamented passages in the right hand and the domination of the upper voice, polyphony thereby giving way to ornamentation.

We can only offer an aural impression of the complete office, given that it lasted for several hours, and of its many possibilities of performance and interpretation. The complete recreation of such an undoubtedly colourful occasion in which liturgy, music and the visual arts were all closely bound and formed almost a Gesamtkunstwerk before its time must, however, be left to the imagination of each individual listener.

(FWO, Alamire Foundation, K.U. Leuven)
Translation : Peter LOCKWOOD