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Antoine Brumel's 12-voice Missa Et ecce terrae motus achieved a lasting impact during the 16th century. In an age where the performance of contemporary music was the rule rather than the exception, it was sung in the 1570s at the Bavarian ducal chapel. It survives in a manuscript with annotations by the Kapellmeister, Orlandus Lassus. By then, Brumel had been dead 50 years. Today's record collectors will know the work through David Munrow's anthology The art of the Netherlands, which includes the Gloria and has just been re-issued on CD at mid-price by EMI (Reflexe cms7 64215 2). This earlier recording is a useful point of comparison for two new recordings of the complete Mass, by the Huelgas Ensemble and the Tallis Scholars.
While the new discs offer a similar view of the Mass, they differ in many details. The Huelgas's pitch-standard is about a semitone lower than the Tallis Scholars' a' = 440, their voices are warmer and more coloured, and the acoustic more resonant. Paul Van Nevel takes advantage of the segmentation of the longer movements, and tempos vary greatly (too greatly.?) between sections. Many effective touches are read into the score; I was most struck by sibilant or plosive consonants travelling between voices in the tutti, an effect magnified by singing pianissimo in the warm acoustic. Original as such details are, the ensemble sounds a little confused in the busier 12-voice passages. The contrast in tempi is in some cases extreme; several are indeed too slow for comfort and damage the pacing of the movements. Finally, the Huelgas recording uses an Agnus Dei II (missing in the Munich source) which is probably spurious.
The Tallis Scholars' …