It is 45 years since Noel Bauldeweyn’s name came to musicologists’ attention. It was then that Edgar Sparks proposed to take the (up till then highly-regarded) Missa Da Pacem away from Josquin and give it instead to the unknown Bauldeweyn. He made his case well, and musicology accepted it. But few can have investigated independently, for no modern edition of Bauldeweyn’s works existed then, and little or none of his music had been heard. Any wider interest from early music enthusiasts in comparing the Da Pacem mass, no longer by Josquin, with other works by Bauldeweyn was practically impossible to satisfy in the same absence of music or recordings.
45 years on, almost nothing has changed – until now. The ‘Josquin’ mass was treated as no longer worthy of notice, and has hardly been heard since: there is only one modern recording - Missa Da Pacem. A small handful of other pieces by Bauldeweyn have been recorded, almost all of them disputed works recorded under another composer’s name, which makes finding them a specialist task (but see below). And there is still no modern edition, though 3 of the masses here have been made available in the admirable Ars Subtilior online editions (arsubtilior.com).
So, hurrah for Beauty Farm’s new recordings. At last we can hear what Bauldeweyn sounded like, and compare it with the ‘Josquin’ mass.
All this would be pointless if Bauldeweyn’s music was not worth hearing, of course. The fact that one of his masses could be passed off as a work of Josquin’s, even if not one of his best, is an indicator that Bauldeweyn could write. And the presence of his masses, often in pairs, in 9 presentation manuscripts from the Alamire workshop offers another strong indicator. He seems to have been briefly famous in the years around 1520 but quickly superseded by more adventurous (and gifted?) composers like Gombert, except in northern Europe, where he features in around 3 dozen manuscripts and over a dozen prints over the following decades, and in the Iberian peninsula (another half-dozen manuscripts). The Sistine Chapel even had the Sine nomine mass, last on this set but probably one of Bauldeweyn’s earlier works, re-copied in the 1570s, 50 or 60 years after it was written, and at a time when it must have seemed very old-fashioned.
Does this disc back up the 16th century view of Bauldeweyn, or the low estimation implicitly put on him by the 20th? The masses show some variety of style, probably indicating growing maturity, and in these performances are certainly a pleasure to hear. Bauldeweyn shows real individual musical personality here, too; he is his own man, not a replicator or copyist of others, at times quite blunt-speaking and generally less mellifluous than Josquin, less quirky than Obrecht, but standing alongside de la Rue or Compere as lesser, and less forward-looking, stars in their cluster. I’ll leave others more expert than I am to comment on the performances by Beauty Farm, but they work for me!
For more Bauldeweyn: as well as the 4 of his 6 or 7 masses here, that recording of Missa Da Pacem is also available (above). Of his half-dozen surviving motets and 1 or 2 secular songs, you can hear the 10+ minute motet Benedicam Dominum in omni tempore – ironically, sung by the Josquin Capella! – as a work of Thomas Stoltzer; Quam pulchra es, the model motet for Gombert's Missa Quam Pulchras Es by Vox Lucens; and Sancta Maria Virgo Virginum, one of the small number of works added to Bauldeweyn’s oeuvre since Sparks wrote in the 1970s. It’s also worth checking out Ave caro Christi cara on the Binchois Consort’s excellent survey of ‘fake’ Josquiniana, Josquin Des Pres and His Contemporaries; this is sometimes attributed to Bauldeweyn but too much ‘copy-Josquin’ to be by him.