Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Sounds of Salvation: A Recreation of the Mass for St. Donatian by Jacob Obrecht

I'm excited to tell you about a thrilling project, a completed project about which I had previously heard nothing. It is a full reconstruction of a mass by Jacob Obrecht (1457/1458 – late July, 1505). Here is the full DVD/CD, which looks like a treasure to own.

What we have here is liturgical reenactment of a commemorative Mass service endowed by the widow of the fur merchant Donaes de Moor and first celebrated in the Sint Jacobskerk in Bruges in October 1487. The Dutch ensemble Cappella Pratensis sings the plainsong and Obrecht’s polyphony from the original notation displayed on a large music stand, with organ improvisations by Wim Diepenhorst and the assistance of clerics from Bruges. A documentary segment explores the structure of the Mass, the stories of the people involved, the church, the chant, and the documents, all filmed on location in Bruges.

This film is of great interest to colleagues who teach the history of Renaissance sacred music, to those who perform this repertoire, and to anyone interested in the cultural history of this time and place. The DVD+CD, entitled Missa de Sancto Donatiano (Bruges 1487), appears on the Challenge Classics FineLine label (FL 72414) and was released in the US and Canada on October 13.

Most of all, have a look at this wonderful website in support of the project. Here you can listen to the whole Mass, look at the score with annotations, and even see clips of the film with the singers. And get this: the singers are singing from a single edition sitting on a high music stand - it is that faithful to the original. They are all gathered around in the most wonderful way, and they look like they are enjoying every instant of this music.

For my part, I'm getting the DVD so that I don't have to deal with a fussy web connection. What a magnificent project!

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