With a world premiere of Pierre de Manchicourt’s Missa Reges terrae, the Choir of St. Luke in the Fields captivates the ear at every moment on their new recording for MSR Classics

MS 1632
Manchicourt was a distinctive Franco-Flemish composer born
in Béthune, then in the French
speaking part of Flanders, now northern France. After serving as a choirboy at
Arras Cathedral he went on to become choirmaster at Tours and Tournai
cathedrals before, in 1559, becoming master of Philip II’s Flemish chapel in
Madrid. He was the composer of many masses, motets and Parisian chansons.
This new recording opens with Manchicourt’s motet, Reges terrae (The kings of the Earth) which moves through the female voices across
the choir to form a fine tapestry, maintaining some lovely subtle rubato before coming together beautifully at
the end.
Of particular interest here is the world premiere recording
of Manchicourt’s Missa Reges terrae considered
to have been written during the composer’s employment by Philip II. The Kyrie has a luminous opening from the
female voices of Choir of St. Luke in the Fields before all join for a quite
wonderful weaving of choral lines. Manchicourt brings some finely conceived
layering of vocal textures, captivating the ear at every moment with so many fine
harmonies and sonorities. We are taken straight into the Gloria with a fine tenor bringing the opening words Gloria in Excelcis Deo after which so
many of the choir’s individual voices can be heard blending and weaving a
glorious musical tapestry. They colour and lift the texts beautifully bringing
some impressive moments, finding a little surge in tempo at the conclusion.
A tenor opens the Credo
before Manchicourt brings some particularly fine luminous textures, so finely
revealed by this choir. The ear can follow all the vocal lines such is the
clarity of this choir and, indeed, the recording. There is a finely shaped
Crucifixus; indeed there are so many finely shaped phrases throughout as well
as some lovely textures and sonorities as the Amen is reached. The Sanctus rises beautifully after the Credo, achieving some quite lovely sonorities
as this fine section moves mellifluously forward. There is a beautifully woven Benedictus from the female voices with the
whole choir rising through the Hosanna.
The male voices lead the second Benedictus
before rising through a glorious, faster Hosanna. The Agnus Dei
brings a wonderful weaving and a fine blend of these very fine voices.
The choir bring a terrific precision as the various voices
join in the opening of the motet, Caro mea
(My flesh) with fine textures and some particularly rich lower sonorities
over which the other voices weave some lovely lines. This choir achieve some
lovely subtle rises and falls before beefing up the music with Manchicourt’s
distinctive change to triple metre to propel the music to its conclusion.
Ne Reminiscaris (Remember
not) is an absolute gem, slowly emerging through some quite lovely passages
before expanding through the choir, full of pathos, beautifully paced, with
some absolutely exquisite moments, sung to perfection here.

The choir find some especially lovely harmonies in the
motet, Vidi Speciosum (I saw the
fair one), again with a fine ebb and flow. The layering of vocal lines allows
each section of this fine choir to shine through with some beautifully nuanced
singing before taking up a triple metre to speed to another fine conclusion.  

The Choir of St. Luke in the Fields concludes their disc
with a joyful Regina Caeli (Queen of
Heaven) setting a fine pace as the music moves quickly forward with some lovely
weaving of vocal lines. 

With a world premiere and the Choir of St. Luke in the
Fields providing such fine results, this is a must for all early music buffs
and surely everyone who enjoys choral music. The choir receive a top notch
recording from the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, New York City and there are excellent
notes from John Bradley who also prepared the performing editions used here.
There are full Latin and English texts provided. 

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