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SACD406   Pierre de Manchicourt, Volume II



Pierre de Manchicourt, Volume II

The Choir of The Church of the Advent, Boston
Edith Ho, Director of Music
*Ross Wood, Associate Conductor

  • Notes by Ignace Bossuyt
  • Complete texts and translations
  • 63'43" total playing time

SACD406     $15.95

Purchase from Canticle Distributing

SACD playable as: 

Missa de requiem (SATTB)
1. Introit
2. Kyrie
3. *Gradual
4. Offertory
5. *Sanctus & Benedictus
6. *Agnus I, II, III
7. Communion
8. Motet Audivi vocem de cœlo (SAATTB)
9. Motet O Intemerata (SATB)
10. Motet Puer qui natus est (SAATB)
11. Motet Laudate Dominum omnes gentes (SAATTB)



Listeners unfamiliar with the music of Pierre de Manchicourt, or who might not even recognize his name, need not be ashamed. Indeed, Manchicourt is one of many 16th century composers whose life and works quietly slipped out of the picture of Western music history. Yet he belonged to the large group of outstanding polyphonic composers from the Low Countries who during the Renaissance played a leading part, perhaps even the leading part, in the European musical scene. By the end of the 16th century, however, the complexity of these composers' vocal polyphonic music had become outmoded; a new style from Italy caught on ('accompanied monody'), and most of the tremendous volume of renaissance polyphony passed into oblivion, until musicologists in the 19th and 20th centuries gradually dusted off this magificent repertoire, hidden and dispersed in hundreds of archives and libraries all over the world.

Pierre de Manchicourt belonged to the so-called 'fourth generation' of polyphonists from the Low Countries, a group rich in famous names such as Adriaan Willaert, Cipriano de Rore, Nicolas Gombert, Clemens non Papa and Thomas Crequillon, among many others. These composers were active in their homelands and abroad as singers, chapelmasters and teachers at the most exquisite and splendor-loving ecclesiastical and secular courts of popes, cardinals, bishops, emperors, kings, princes, dukes and nobles throughout Europe.

Manchicourt's biography is not well documented. We know that he died on 5 October 1564 in Madrid where he was serving as the first chapelmaster of the Spanish king Philip II. Since 1559 he had been the leader of 'Capilla Flamenca,' the famous choir Philip inherited from his father, Emperor Charles V (1500-1558), which consisted exclusively of singers and composers from the Low Countries. As a fervent defender of the Counter-Reformation, Philip stimulated his musicians above all in the direction of sacred music, just as his father had done before him. Consequently, most of the musicians in his service concentrated primarily on the ecclesiatical repertoire.

Manchicourt's output is no exception: the majority of his works are settings of the Ordinary of the Mass and motets on biblical or liturgical texts (such as antiphons and responsories). His secular French chansons mostly date from his earlier years, before he was engaged by Philp II, when he worked in France and the Low Countires as chorister in Arras and a choirmaster at both Tours Cathedral and Tournai Cathedral in Hainaut (in the south of what is now Belgium). Being an ordained clergyman, he was honored with a canonry at Arras Cathedral by the Bishop of Arras, Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle, who was at the same time the most important counselor and the 'prime minister' to Charles V and Philip II. In 1554, to curry Granvelle's favor, Manchicourt dedicated to the Bishop a collection of motets, published by the Leuven University printer Pierre Phalèse. This edition of fourteen five- and six-part works contain the motets Puer qui natus est (a5) and Audivi vocem de cœlo (a6). Subsequently, Granvelle did indeed favor Manchicourt when in 1559 the latter applied for and obtained the post of director of the Capilla Flamenca after the death of the former chapelmaster Nicolas Payen in February of that year. Thus Manchicourt's royal appointment took place while Philip was still staying in the Low Countries before moving permanently to Madrid in 1561.

In 1539, a motet book by Manchicourt was published by Pierre Attaingnant in Paris, who was one of the first music printers to devote an entire motet collection to a single composer; far more common and risk-free was the publication of anthologies of works by several composers. That Attaingnant chose Manchicourt is a clear sign of his reputation as the leader of the choir of Tours Cathedral. While most of Manchicourt's motets were published during his lifetime, his nineteen masses are, with some exceptions, preserved only in manuscript. One manuscript, copied about 1560 in Madrid (possibly by Manchicourt himself), contains his Requiem, together with three other masses and eleven motets. This manuscript must have belonged to the repertoire of the well-known monastery of Montserrat, where it is still preserved in company with a second manuscript containing no fewer than twelve masses by Manchicourt (MS. 768, c. 1545/55 and MS. 772, c. 1560).

The Missa de requiem, used for funerals or memorial services, is named after the first word of the Introit of the Mass ('Requiem ætername dona eis, Domine': 'Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord'). More than forty polyphonic Requiem masses of the 15th and 16th centuries are known, one of the most famous being the first preserved, composed by Johannes Ockeghem (c. 1415-1497). The earliest-known Requiem Mass was written by Guillaume Dufay (c. 1397-1474) but has lamentably been lost. These Requiem masses are made up of different parts of the Ordinary of the Mass, the texts of which remain essentially unchanged (Kyrie, Sanctus and Benedictus, and Agnus Dei), and of the Propers of the Mass whose texts do change according to the liturgical occasion.. Before the reforms of the Council of Trent (1543-1563) there were alternative texts for the Propers including the Gradual Si ambulem in medio umbræ mortis, selected by Manchicourt for his Requiem. The other parts of the Propers in his Requiem are the Introit Requiem æternam, the Offertory Domine Jesu Christe and the Communion Lux æterna. Characteristic for the Requiem Mass is the borrowing of the original Gregorian chant in the polyphonic parts, as cantus firmus or as a basis for paraphrase. Manchicourt places the plainchant mostly in the top voice, around which he composes four free parts in a slowly-moving, transparent contrapuntal fabric in masterly fashion, perfectly appropriate to the texts of the Mass for the Dead. Manchicourt does not aim at dramatic expression but is guided by the first words of the Mass: 'Requiem æternam,' the eternal rest God prepares for the people he unconditionally loves. The aura of profound serentiy created by Manchicourt in this work is very moving.

Manchicourt's motets are typical examples of compact and continuous counterpoint, a technique established by his contemporary Nicolas Gombert (c. 1490 - c. 1556), singer and composer in Charles V's Capilla Flamenica between 1526 and 1537. Gombert was famous for his consistently imitative counterpoint or pervading imitation, in overlapping phrases, without interruptions and without general pauses. This music, as a result, exudes a sense of deep seriousness and a certain evenness of tone, which nonetheless avoids monotony through masterly handling of counterpoint and rich melodic invention. Manchicourt, following Gombert, does not strive for stark contrasts: his musical lines proceed according to a regular pattern and create a rather introverted mood, which is established in the opening bars of a composition and maintained through the concluding notes. His music overwhelms us not with dramatic effects or unexpected rhythmic changes, but with an astonishing beauty of sound and a fullness of tone flavored at times with dissonance or harmonic clash as the result of the constant interweaving of independent parts.

The four motets presented here are excellent examples of this masterfully controlled style: the four-part O intermerata et in æternum benedicta, a very popular prayer to the Virgin Mary; the monumental six-part Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes based on Psalm 117; the five-part motet for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist Puer qui natus est; and the six-part motet for Eastertide Audivi vocem de cœlo. The last one is remarkable in that the fifth part sings the same words throughout the entire motet, Omones sancti, intercede pro nobis ('All ye saints, pray for us'), a clearly symbolic gesture serving as a continuous plea for help. This technique was very popular among composers of the previous generation, especially Josquin Desprez, but was rarely applied by contemporaries of Manchicourt, with the excepton of Willaert. With this work Manchicourt demonstrates his familiarity with older compositional techniques. Indeed, Manchicourt should be considered one the most prominent composers of the "Gombert generation" who rightly deserves to be rescued from unjust obscurity.

--Ignace Bossuyt, Profrssor of Musicology,
The Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium

The Choir of The Church of the Advent
Edith Ho, Music Director
Ross Wood, Associate Conductor
Ivan Hansen, Librarian

Priscilla Anderson Jennifer Ashe
Susan Bisson Lambert Allen Combs (tenor)
Sudie Marcuse Alice Dampman
Cheryl Ryder Martin Near
*Laura Ziegler  
Sterling Lambert
Glenn Billingsley (alto)
Kevin Leong Martin Cowley
Stephen Ng Richard Giarusso
Steven Soph Clifford Rust (tenor)

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 United States she has held teaching positions at the college level, and as a concert organist has peformed on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1994 she received an honorary doctorate from Nashotah House Seminary in Wisconsin.

Ross Wood became Associate Organist and Choirmaster of The Church of the Advent in 2001, after serving as Associate Organist at Trinity Church, Boston, for sixteen years. He is also manager of acquisitions and cataloging for the Wellesley College libraries. Dr. Wood has performed recitals throughtout the U.S. and Europe, including venues such as Notrre-Dame Cathedral, Paris; the National Caqthedral in Washington, and St. Patrick's Cathedral and St. Thomas Church in New York. He received his doctorate from Eastman School of Music as a student of Russell Saunders, after undergraduate studywtih Robert Anderson at Southern Methodist University.

The 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 27-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. Recent CDs (ARSIS 113, 118, 136, and 146) feature two masses and motets by Francisco Guerrero, to commemorate the four-hundredth anniversary of that composer's death; two masses and a Magnificat by Guillaume Du Fay; and a mass and motets by Thomas Crecquillon on each of two separate discs. The latest CD features Victoria's Requiem for sic voices and Reproaches. Previously the Advent Choir recorded three LPs and a CD: Duo Seraphim: Angel Songs for Christmas on the AFKA label.

The choir's performances have been broadcast on National Public Radio, BBC Radio 3, and Boston's WGBH, among many others. In 1992 the choir made a highly successful tour of Venezuela. The choir was a featured ensemble in the 1990 American Guild of Organists' National Convention, the 1994 and 2003 Boston Early Music Festival concert series, the 1999 American Guild of Organists' Region I Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the 1999 Boston Conference of the Association of Anglican Musicians. In the past three years, the choir has given four all-Crecquiilon concerts, being the first ensemble in modern times to give deserved prominence to this important composer's oeuvre. These concerts were performed in Boston and at the Cathedral of All Saints in Albany, New York. In 2004 and 2005, the choir presented an all-Renaissance concert in St. Thomas Church, New York City, and two Manchicourt programs in Boston.

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The Advent Choir on ARSIS recordings: