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8.554260 - OCKEGHEM: Requiem / Missa Prolationum
Johannes Ockeghem (c.
Johannes Ockeghem – the lucid mystic
The death of the Franco-Flemish musician Johannes Ockeghem, one of the great composers of the fifteenth century, on 6th of February 1497 brought a stream of poems and laments in his honour. The greatest minds of his time, the poet Guillaume Cretin, the poet-composer Jean Molinet and even Erasmus of Rotterdam, wrote of Ockeghem in the highest tones. Erasmus had early expressed himself in less complimentary terms on the flourishing polyphony of church music, but on the old Flemish master, who was nearly ninety, he had to say. "Ergone conticuit / Vox illa nobilis / Aurea vox Okegi?" ("Is then silent / that noble voice / The golden voice of Ockeghem?"). Is it not conceivable that he was here alluding to Ockeghem's very well paid position as treasurer at the monastery church of St. Martin in Tours? Surely not since in all the other eulogies the honesty and piety of the composer is underlined.
Ockeghem's pupils, among whom apparently all the great composers of the period belong, Josquin, de la Rue, Brumel and Compére, were invited to compose laments for him and met this request, Josquin even with his absolute masterpiece. The beloved teacher was here described not only as master of all means of musical expression, but, at the same time as a wise and learned man, with great knowledge in 'Mathematics, Arithmetic and Geometry, Astrology and, over and above this, Music'. That Ockeghem was very well versed in these intellectual disciplines is seen also in his great interest in complicated musical enigmas and puzzle games, for example a whole Mass in which each of the four voices sings constantly in its own rhythm, while two voices sing in canon; similarly in the Missa Prolationum, not to mention the Missa Cuiusvis Toni which can be sung in all four classical modes, whereby the course of the individual parts remains in principle the same, while the whole work will sound completely different.
Yet, these skilful intricacies apart, the actual sound of the music must be considered. It remains, with all its extravagant complexity, above all interesting to hear. It is clear that Ockeghems wealth of imagination knows no bounds. His ideas bubble forth in an almost endless and virtually shapeless stream of luxuriant invention. In this respect there is no music like this. Rhythmically it is extremely variable and of a degree of difficulty that we first find again a comparable form in our own century.
The music radiates, in spite of its absolute intellectual principles of construction, a marked medieval mysticism, a search for a religious goal through the incomprehensibility in music, the well-controlled primeval forest of sounds, which come upon the ears and tell of the incomprehensible power of God and the infinite extent and grace of Heaven.
Over and above this there is a picture of Johannes Ockeghem. Portraits of medieval composers are seldom found and this was painted first twenty years after his death. In spite of that, here he stands, among his singers, with glasses on his nose, the great, thin and consistently unerring master, reminding the observer that he was in his time almost as well known for his glorious, deep bass voice as for his unique language as a composer.
Bo Holten (English version by Keith Anderson)
INTEMERATA DEI MATER
Intemerata Dei mater, generosa puella, quam stipant agmina divum,
Nec sine et manet ulla quies spes nulla laboris,
Aspiciat facito miseros pietatis ocello
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis, Domine.
Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.
Si ambulem in medio umbrae mortis non timebo mala,
Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes aquarum:
Domine Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae,
Gloria in excelsis Deo. Et in terra pax hominibus bonae volu2ntatis.
Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, factorem coeli et terrae,
visibilium omnium et invisibilium.
Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. Osanna in excelsis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
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