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CD146   Music of Thomas Crecquillon, Vol II



Music of Thomas Crecquillon, Vol II

The Choir of The Church of the Advent, Boston
Edith Ho, Director of Music
Ross Wood & James Reyes,
Associate Conductors

  • Notes by Barton Hudson
  • Complete texts and translations
  • 67'08" total playing time

CD146    $15.95

Purchase from Canticle Distributing

Buried in French libraries from the end of the 16th century, this music had not been performed or recorded prior to 2000.

Missa D'ung petit mot
1.      Kyrie (SATTB)
2.      Gloria (SATTB)
3.      Credo (SATTB)
4.      Sanctus & Benedictus (SATTB, SA, TTB)
5.      Agnus Dei I (SSATTB)
6.      Agnus Dei II (SATTB)
7.      Agnus Dei III (SSATTB)
8.  Motet Dirige gressus meos
9.  Motet Joannes est nomen ejus
10. Motet Peccantem me quotidie
11. Motet Respice, quæsumus, Domine
12. Motet Domine, respice in me
13. Motet Expurgate vetus fermentum
14. Motet Factus est repente

Listen Listen:

Agnus Dei I from Missa D’ung petit mot


Edith Ho and her excellent choir deliver revelatory performances. Crecquillon's smooth-as-glass vocal lines guide along marvelously, every phase crisp and clear, thanks to the choir's skilled articulation.
  --Craig Zeicher, Early Music America, Spring 2003



Thomas Crecquillon (ca. 1505-ca.1557) is not today one of the better-known Renaissance composers, since only in recent years has much of his music been available to modern performers; but in his own day he was a very famous composer. During that part of his life of which we have some knowledge he held the position of maître de la chappelle, singer, chaplain, and, unofficially, court composer at the court of Charles V, one of the premier music positions in Europe during the period. Charles's empire was enormous, extending from Bohemia to the Americas, and Crecquillon's music was circulated widely throughout that region. It survives in most of the musical sources of this period; obviously it was widely performed. Writers on music from his own time and even into the late seventeenth century reckoned him among the pre-eminent composers. He was also a very prolific one, best known for his sacred music. Oddly enough, given his prominence, we know little else of his life, although there are hints that he may have worked at Regensburg, Antwerp, and Tournai before joining Charles's court. He retired by 1555 and disappeared from the records after 1557. Most likely he died in the plague that ravaged Europe that year.

Crecquillon usually wrote music on demand for specific occasions, both sacred and secular. Most often these would have been simply for the daily celebration of Mass which the Emperor and his court attended, and especially for major feast days; these account for many of the motets based upon liturgical texts. Others, however, have words compiled from various sources in a way not found in the liturgy. Some were apparently intended to celebrate a specific secular occasion, such as the conclusion of a peace agreement. One seems to celebrate the Emperor's birthday. Two motets, one of them a funeral lament, honor Charles's generals. A pair of motets are to be sung as table blessings, before and after a meal. Most interesting are a Mass and motet on a melody whose text commemorates the Habsburg monarchy. Martin Ham has developed the convincing thesis that they, along with works by several other composers written at about the same time on the same melody, Kain Adler in der Welt so schon, were intended for the elaborate celebrations surrounding the 1543 wedding of Charles's son, the future Philip II of Spain, to Maria of Portugal. Most compositions, however, have a text of a more neutral, liturgical character, which precludes determining their specific original intent.

Like most Masses of the period, Missa D'ung petit mot is based upon a pre-existing composition; in this case a secular French chanson, although this model has not been identified. Crecquillon wrote a piece with this text beginning, but it was not the model for the Mass. Sharp ears will note bits of melody that recur, especially at the very beginning of each movement. These no doubt were borrowed from the chanson. Influence of the model also seems to pervade the general style of the Mass. Those familiar with Missa Domine Deus omnipotens on the first disc of this set know that it is quite contrapuntal, including motives imitating one another in the various voices, just as happpens in the parent motet. By contrast, Missa D'ung petit mot is quite harmonic in character, just as the chanson must have been. Masses based upon a pre-existing piece in this fashion are usually called "parodies", though the term carries no connotation of mockery or ridicule. A unique feature of this Mass is the phrase sine pausa sometimes attached to the title. This signifies that there are no rests, or rather, that there are only very short ones.

In contrast to the Mass, the seven motets on the program are all imitative; that is, each bit of text is assigned a melodic tag that appears in the various voice parts to call attention to the new idea. This is the most common procedure in Netherlands motets in Crecquillon's period.

Domine, repice in me and Dirige gressus meos are each based upon a selection of verses from a psalm, or, in the latter case, from five psalms. These word selections are not known to occur anywhere in the liturgy and were probably compiled specifically for these motets. Both texts are of a personal nature, asking God for rescue from unfair enemies or praying for guidance and deliverance. They are not alone among Crecquillon's motets in giving the impression that they were composed to express deep yearnings of an individual, most likely Charles V himself.

The remaining motets on the program were intended for liturgical use. Joannes est nomen ejus is a Responsory for the feast of John the Baptist. Its text, from Luke I, quotes the words of the angel who appeared to Zacharias to announce the coming birth of the saint. Peccantem me quotide takes its text from a Responsory for the Office of the Dead. One wonders for whom such a slight composition, in only three voices, might have been intended.

By contrast, Respice, quæsumus, Domine is a very grand six-voice motet which draws its text from a Collect for Holy Week. It is unusual in that it employs a very dark mode on e, not often found in Crecquillon's music and generally reserved for texts of a someber nature. This one is a prayer for protection for "this family" (i.e., God's children). Quite exceptionally, the composer used modal coloring in another purposeful way. After a very grave beginning, the motet shifts to a brighter "C major" mode on the words "Jesus Christus, non dubitavit manibus tradi nocentium" (Jesus Christ did not hesitate to deliver himself into the hands of sinners.), but then returns to the doleful mode on "et crucis subire tormentum" (and undergo the torment of the cross). This work, which was published only after the composer's death and was likely one of his latest works, represents Crecquiillon at his very best.

Expurgate vetus fermentum is one of three of the composer's motets beginning with these words. The setting performed here, by far the most widely celebrated of the three, takes its text from a Responsory now assigned to Friday of Easter Week. Finally, the Pentecost motet Factus est repente relates the receiving of the Holy Spirit by the disciples.

In Crecquillon's age, Christian religion was at the center of not only the religious life of Europe but also of its culture. Compositions to embellish the liturgy form a major part of the repertory, so that the church served in a way the functions of a concert hall as well as religious observance. For many it provided the only opportunity available to hear art music.

--Barton Hudson


The Choir of The Church of the Advent
Edith Ho, Music Director (Tracks 1-7, 12, 14)
Ross Wood, Associate Conductor (Trqacks 8, 13)
James Reyes, Associate Conductor (Tracks 9-11)
Ivan Hansen, Librarian


Priscilla Anderson Alice Dampman
Susan Bisson Brad Fugate
Shannon Canavin Charles Kamm (and tenor)
Margaret Hunter Martin Near
Denise Konicek Fred Raffensperger
Cheryl Ryder
*Charles Blandy
Richard Giarusso Allen Coombs (and alto)
*Joe Dan Harper Sterling Lambert
Bernard Lee David Whitehead
Sumer Thompson David Won

Recorded direct to digital master on June 9-11, 2002 at The Church of the Advent, Boston.


The Choir of The Church of the AdventThe Choir of the Church of the Advent, Boston, Massachusetts is a professional choir with the prime responsibility of providing appropriate music for the liturgy in this Anglo-Catholic parish. In a year's time they will have sung about fifty Mass settings, and over one hundred anthems, motets, canticles, carols, etc., in addition to a body of chants. The repertoire spans all historical periods from Gregorian chants to world premieres. The Latin polyphonic Masses and motets from the Renaissance, however, remain the principal sources of repertoire.



Of greater import than even the scope of the repertoire performed is the high standard of music-making cultivated during Edith Ho's 26-year tenure. Under her direction, the choir's performance has achieved both national and international recognition; several recordings they have made have received critical acclaim. In addition to their recordings on the ARSIS label they have also recorded for the AFKA label. Their performances have been broadcast on National Public Radio, BBC Radio 3 as well as Boston's WGBH. They have presented many concerts in the US and abroad and were a featured ensemble in the 1990 American Guild of Organists' National Convention; the 1994, 2000, and 2002 Boston Early Music Festival concert series, the 1999 American Guild of Organists' Region I Convention in Worcestor, Massachusetts, and the 1999 Boston Conference of the Association of Anglican Musicians. In 1992 the choir made a highly successful tour of Venezuela.

Edith Ho has been Organist and Choirmaster of Boston's Church of the Advent since 1977. Born in China, she received both Bachelor's and Master's degree in organ performance from the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, MD. Miss Ho undertook advanced studies in organ with Heinz Wunderlich and Helmut Walcha in Germany. She attended choral seminars conducted by Sir David Willcocks and other prominent conductors. In the US she has held teaching positions at the college level, and in 1994 she received an honorary doctorate from Nashotah Seminary in Wisconsin.

Ross Wood became Associate Organist and Choirmaster of The Church of the Advent in October, 2001, after serving as Associate Organist at Trinity Church, Boston, for 16 years. He is also head of acquisitions and cataloging for the Wellesley College libraries. Praised for his "exquisite playing," Dr. Wood has played recitals throughout the US and Europe.

James Reyes served for 10 years as Director of Music at St. Peter's Church in Weston, MA prior to being appointed Associate Choirmaster and Organist of The Church of the Advent in 2001. He presently teaches conducting, harmony, counterpoint and choral composition at Berklee College of Music, Boston, and this year completed twelve years as Director of Music for the Polymnia Choral Society, Melrose, MA. His compositions include chamber music, many solo songs and choral works.

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The Advent Choir on ARSIS recordings: