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Customer Review

16 October 2017
Here's another extremely enterprising recording from the Austrian-based ensemble Beauty Farm. It's a two-disc set bringing us four Mass settings by the post-Josquin Flemish composer Noel Bauldeweyn (c. 1480- c. 1530).

These are, firstly, the 5-part parody Missa En douleur en tristesse, based on his own 5-voice version of the Netherlandish chanson. The misery of its model dominates the melodic lines and thick, complex textures throughout the work. The second work, Missa Inviolata integra et casta es, a cantus firmus setting in 5 parts, is much brighter in melodic line and altogether a beautiful work. The third setting, Missa Myn liefkensbruyn ooghen, is a 4-voice paraphrase Mass; and the fourth, Missa Sine nomine, is a 6-part setting with no known model but dominated by a distinctive and compelling melody.

Bauldeweyn's style is austere and uncompromising, with little concession to rhetorical gesture, melodic pleasure or harmonic beauty. The music is beautifully crafted, but will by no means appeal to all tastes. I've a feeling that, the greater your knowledge of Franco-Flemish polyphony, the more interesting you will find this music; but it's not for the casual listener. Having said that, I would love to hear some of his motets, which may possibly turn out to be easier on the ear – at least to the merely semi-informed listener which I would claim to be.

The main attractions of this recording, however, are firstly its adventurous nature as a result of the rarity of these works; and secondly, the quite superb quality of Beauty Farm's performances. This all-male-voice ensemble just get better and better each time I hear them, with excellent blend, rich textures and the lower voices of baritone and bass well to the fore in the recorded balance. Moreover, their period style and their sense of commitment are exemplary. Recorded sound, in the Carthusian monastery church of Mauerbach in Austria, is superb, and Wolfgang Fuhrmann's booklet notes – beautifully translated into English by Roderick Shaw – are also excellent. The only negative, all too common for the Fra Bernardo label, is the self-consciously tasteless cover photo. Can anyone explain the connection between a gesticulating bloke in jeans and a hoodie, and Franco-Flemish renaissance polyphony?

For a much better-informed assessment of this recording, please see the very helpful review by D. Wyatt.
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