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on 21 January 2010
This is a re-issue of a 1996 recording which must be considered a classic. The excellent notes to the original explain that this relatively early mass by Dufay was meant to be sung "until the end of time" on St. Anthony of Padua's feast day in the chapel in Cambrai's cathedral where Dufay was to be buried. Well, the French revolution saw to it that the cathedral was dismantled, and the mass was "lost", until it was realised, some 25 years ago, that it was a mass known from a manuscript in Trent. It includes Ordinary and Proper (to this Saint's day) movements. Unusually the Ordinary is not based on a cantus firmus, which, especially taken together with the Proper movements, makes for much more variation than the usual 15th century mass. Although the music is quite complex, it has a strong direct appeal, with passages that, to a modern listener, seem to express the personal significance this mass apparently had for Dufay. The Binchois Consort's wonderful interpretation does everything to bring this out. It is expressive and passionate, and sung in tempi that enable the listener to easily follow the polyphonic melodic lines. The Amazon editorial review of another recording Dufay and the Court of Savoy states that "the Binchois remain the ultimate musical authority on this great composer", and having listened to quite a few of their mass recordings I agree that in these at least they are the most compelling, although the Oxford Camerata's Missa l'Homme Arme Missa L'homme armé - Supremum est mortalibus bonum comes close and Cantica Symphonica's totally different interpretations (apparently not easily available from Amazion UK) are extraordinary too. A fascinating world to explore, and this disc is an excellent starting point.
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For reasons not entirely clear, Guillaume Dufay seems to have chosen Saint Anthony of Padua as one of his heavenly intercessors. He held in his possession, the only relic he had, a piece of the saint's belt, and composed a mass in his honour, calling Anthony his glorioso comite - 'glorious companion'. In his will he made provision for this mass to be held annually in perpetuity, for the benefit of his soul. It is not known for how long this lasted - certainly no longer than 1796 when revolutionaries dismantled Cambrai Cathedral, where Dufay was buried in St Stephen's chapel and where the mass was to be performed.

It had been thought that the mass itself had been forever lost too, until modern times when it was realised, thanks to quotations by the contemporary theorist Johannes Tinctoris and the later writer Giovanni Sparato, that mass Ordinaries in a manuscript from Trent, long thought to have been Dufay's mass for St Anthony Abbot, was in fact the St Anthony of Padua Mass. Furthermore, scholarly investigation and much detective work established beyond reasonable doubt that a set of Propers in another manuscript from Trent were the associated Propers for the mass.

Although probably composed in the 1440's, when masses employing cantus firmi and four voices were the new fashion and the cutting edge of sacred music composition, this mass has no unifying musical theme and has three voice parts. By no means is this substandard Dufay however, and director Andrew Kirkman, working his usual magic, with the outstanding voices selected for the Binchois Consort (the chosen arrangement here, doubling up parts, being ATTx2), have created a recording of the mass which would surely have given great pleasure to Dufay himself.

The accompanying booklet supplies excellent notes by the director Kirkman, with Latin sung texts and translations.
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on 16 March 2016
From the first bars of the sublime "Introit" you are aware of the breathtaking richness and beauty of this mass. This was Dufay's gift to Saint Anthony of Padua his "musical" plea for eternal redemption. Music has the ability to express emotions which mere words can never convey. The Propers especially are exceptionally moving passages the composer beseeching the Saint to intercede on his behalf for eternal life.
The performance of the Binchois Consort is superb, the voices blending perfectly and expressing the emotion of this exceptional work. Their mastery of this late medieval / early Renaissance repertoire is surely second to none.
An outstanding CD.
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