Johannes OCKEGHEM. Missa Ecce ancilla Domini Intemerata Dei mater
Pro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner · Collegium Aureum


BASF/Harmonia mundi 25 21512-1 LP

Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (Sony) 82876 6999 1 2 CD


1-5. Messe „Ecce ancilla Domini"
zu 4 Stimmen/for 4 voices

I. Kyrie   [5:10]
II. Gloria   [7:41]
III. Credo   [9:44]
IV. Sanctus & Benedictus   [7:31]
V. Agnus Dei   [4:45]

6. Intemerata Dei mater   [6:54]
Motette zu 5 Stimmen/ Motet for 5 voices

Pro Cantione Antigua, London

Paul Esswood, Keith Davis, Geoffrey Mitchell, Contratenor/Countertenor
John Elwes, James Griffett, James Lewington, Tenor
Mark Brown, Brian Etheridge, David Thomas, Jan Caddy, Bass

Mitglieder des/members of
Collegium Aureum

Helmut Hucke, Diskantpommer/soprano bombardon
Friedrich C. Krebs, Altpommer/alto bombardon
Peter Mauruschat, Tenor- und Basspommer/tenor and bass bombardon
Günther Höller, Renaissanceflöte/renaissance flute

Mitglieder des/members of
Bläserkreis far Alte Musik, Hamburg

Detlef Hagge, Cornetto
Fritz Brodersen, Harald Strutz, Renaissance-Posaune/renaissance trombone

Leitung/direction: BrunoTurner

July 20,1972 Schlosskirche Schleiden (Germany)
Recording supervision:
Dr.Thomas Gallia, Dr. Alfred Kriegs Technical equipment: Smart

Remastered using 96kHz/24bit technology by SONOPRESS, Germany.

Design: Christine Schweitzer,
Product manager: Nicola Kremer
1972 deutsche harmonia mundi



The era of the medieval artisans was over. A new upsurge of life could not express itself in collective building and praying anymore, but subscribed to new, individual ideas. Man discovered the realities of this world, founded new continents, spoke in a new literal way about God. Painters abandoned the scheme of geometrical fields and discovered perspective. Builders remembered the classical forms of the ancient world, musicians discovered the secrets of harmony. Contemporaries were so overwhelmed by the sound of this music that an "ars nova" was proclaimed in 1470, and the times already discerned the true beginnings of musical art. Its master was Johannes Ockeghem. He was a great musician. In 1477 the composer and theorist Johannes Tinctoris praised him as "optimus compositor ac dulcedinis accuratus exquisitor". He was a much respected teacher and an example to an important generation of composers;

"Agricola, Verbonnet, Prioris,
Josquin des Prez, Gaspar, Brumel, Compere,
Ne parlez plus de joyeux cha ntz ne ris,
Mai composez ung 'Ne recorderis'
Pour lamenter vostre maistre et bon père".

(Guillaume Cretin)

As a teacher and musician he was loved as a warm-hearted man, always ready to help. "Hic solus inter cantores omni vitio caret, omni abundat virtute" (from the journals of the Italian Francesco Florio).

Ockeghem was a Netherlander, as indeed were all the masters of this "new music", known as the polyphony of the Netherlands. In saying this, one must take into account that the Hapsburg Netherlands embraced south Holland, Flanders, part of the Walloons, and northern France. We do not know where Ockeghem was born, although there is a village called Okegem in east Flanders, and in 1400 the family can be traced back to the neighbouring small town of Dendermonde. An early document tells us of Ockeghem as a singer in the church of Our Lady in Antwerp 1443/44. In 1448 he was in the service of Duke Charles I of Bourbon. In 1453 at the latest he was a member of the French court chapel and served under the Kings Charles VII, Louis XI and Charles VIII, firstly as a singer, but after 1465 as "maistre de la chapelle de chant du roy". By 1460 he had been granted the title of 'Trésorier' of the rich abbey of St Martin in Tours, the titular abbot being the king himself. His fame spread throughout Europe. In 1470 by royal command he set out on a journey to Spain. The Duke of Milan asked him to work for his chapel, and in 1484 he returned to his home again with a large group of followers. After his death poets and musicians called for "the good father Ockeghem to be lamented". The great Josquin des Prez dedicated a profoundly moving "deploration" to him, Erasmus of Rotterdam wrote a lamentation in praise of him.

The importance of Ockeghem does not rely on his invention of new forms. The great musical discovery of the 15th century, a richly harmonic style, the "contenance angloise" goes back to the English composer John Dunstable and to his younger Burgundian contemporary Guillaume Dufay. Ockeghem develops their vocal style into a pure art of horizontal lines, into an independence of self-contained single voices that has never been experienced before or later in the history of music. These "beautiful" voices, melodically and rhythmically full of energy merge into far-flung movement which avoids all dividing cadences, all patterns and every form of repetition. This "varietas" was seen as the highest aim of this music, where no bar resembles another. Their irrational "fluting" becomes a sign of late medieval mysticism. One may think of the movement of the "Devotio moderna" and its ideal of piety which originated in the Netherlands, and called for an active and meditative life in the "imitatio Christi".

The advanced dynamic stream of Ockeghem's Masses and Motets is the antithesis of the system of the static isorhythmic motet of the medieval period which retains its validity until the middle of the 15 century, but the underlying play with numbers is not forgotten; in what different way could the cantus firmus of this recorded Mass "Ecce ancilla Domini" reach the relationship of notes and rests of exactly 662:993; which means 2,3? The play with numbers becomes confusing if one observes that in the splendid festive manuscript which incorporates this Mass, this work is the only one equipped with artistic illuminations; the moment of the Annunciation when the angel speaks "Ave Maria, gratia plena"; is it a coincidence that these words counted together according to the numerical position of the letter in the alphabet result again in a relationship of 2:3? Is it a coincidence that all constructive elements in the Mass are divisible through 5, a number which in music is rare, Mary's number?

But it is not on the play with numbers that Ockeghem's greatness lies, it is not on the artifices of the canons, whose importance was overestimated for a long time, nor is it in the artistic intertwining of the voices which in this Mass are dependent upon one another through hidden imitations. It is the power of expression, the depth and seriousness of his music which led to the timeless fame of his masses and motets.

The music of the Netherlands in the 15th century reveals its quality only completely when an ensemble imitates the original combination of voices and instruments used in the famous royal chapels of Burgundy, France and Italy. The accentuation of male voices and the strong soloistic element of the vocal parts, the inclusion of wind instruments such as shawms and trombones influence the intensity of the sound which corresponds to the musical texture. Only under these conditions can music be rediscovered for us, a music comparable to the pictorial art of Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling and Leonardo da Vinci.