Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Recording of a Medieval Votive Mass of the Sacrament

The Netherlands-based Early Music ensemble Cantores Sancti Gregorii, lead by Mr Ján Janovčík, have recently made available a new recording of the complete Votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament; unlike many such recordings, the clergy’s part of the Mass (Collect, Epistle etc.) are included, giving a better sense of how this music would have been heard in the liturgical context for which it was written. The propers of the Mass are sung in plainchant, while the Ordinary is Josquin des Prez’s Missa Pange lingua; the recording also includes the O Salutaris Hostia and Tantum Ergo from an early sixteenth-century choirbook, the Occo Codex, which is described as follows on the website of the CMME Project (Computerized Mensural Music Editing.)

“Among the best-known music manuscripts produced at the Habsburg-Burgundian court of the Netherlands, the ‘Occo Codex’ was created under the supervision of the celebrated scribe Alamire for the Amsterdam banker Pompeius Occo. A deluxe, decorated item on a large scale, this choirbook brings together major works of composers such as Isaac, Mouton, and Josquin, in addition to anonymous and lesser-known compositions, notably a collection of polyphony in honor of the Blessed Sacrament (Corpus Christi). On the basis of paleographical and historical evidence, the book can be newly dated to c. 1515-17 and associated with use in the Amsterdam chapel of the Sacrament known as the Heilige Stede (Holy Place), where Occo served as churchwarden at the same time. The combination of liturgical focus, careful craftsmanship, and early transmission of a number of masterworks makes this one of the most valuable witnesses to the musical life of the Early Modern Netherlands.”

An engraving of the year 1664, showing the Heilige Stede, which was converted to Protestant worship in the later 16th-century, and destroyed by order of the city of Amsterdam in 1908.
The chapel of the “Holy Place” referred to here was the site of a Eucharistic miracle that took place in Amsterdam in March of 1345, which was celebrated for over two hundred years with a special procession until the city passed over to the reformed faith, and the public celebration of Catholic devotions was prohibited. An account of the Miracle can be read here. The Cantores Sancti Gregorii have a complete description of the project of their recording on their website.

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