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Fanfare Magazine: 39:5 (05-06/2016) 
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CPO 7779372

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"Highly recommended"

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Reviewer: James A. Altena


This is now the third disc by the male vocal quartet Stimmwerck that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing (see 34:5 and 37:4 for my coverage of previous releases). Here, the four regular members—countertenor Franz Vitzthum, tenors Klaus Wenk and Gerhard Hölzle, and bass Marcus Schmidl—are joined by a guest artist, countertenor David Erler, who fits in seamlessly. Here, the ensemble steps back a century from its previous ventures into music of the early Reformation era to tackle virtually unknown repertoire from the late 15th century as part of an ongoing musicological research project directed by Professor Birgit Lodes at the University of Vienna. The mixture of secular and sacred cantiones, motets, and Mass excerpts includes an anonymous motet, Ave mundi spes, that is the only known surviving eight-park work from this era.

Apart from Guillaume Dufay (c. 1397–1474), very little is known about most of the composers featured here. Johannes Brassart (c. 1400–1455) and Johannes de Sarto [or Doussart] (fl. c. 1430–1440; one source conjectures a birth date of c. 1390), both of Flemish extraction, were probably colleagues (or teacher and pupil) in the royal chapel of the Holy Roman Emperor in Liège, and perhaps both members of the papal choir in Rome as well. (Brassart directed the chapel choir of King Frederick III of Germany, later crowned Emperor, c. 1440–1445.) Their works were at one time confused; in addition to five surviving works definitely attributed to de Sarto, two others have Brassart’s name crossed out and de Sarto’s written in on the sole known surviving copies. For his part, Brassart is credited with 11 motets, eight introits, and at least five surviving individual Mass movements. Johannes Touront [or Tourout] (fl. c. 1450–1475) was in the service of the same long-lived emperor at a later date. Johannes Martini (c. 1430 or 1440–1497) was born in Brabant and most likely trained in Flanders. Sometime before 1473 he was part of the ducal chapel in Ferrara, and in 1474 he also became associated with the more prestigious one of the Sforza family in Milan, where Loyset Compère was also active. Martini seems to have kept up connections with both locales, and to have been highly valued; in Ferrara he received both an exceptionally high salary and his own house. Johannes Puillois (d. 1478) was probably born near Antwerp, where he became a singing master at the Church of Notre Dame. From 1447 to 1468 he was a member of the papal choir in Rome, after which he returned to Antwerp. His surviving works include one mass, two motets, three sacred contrafacta, and 14 secular songs. Nothing at all is known about Johannes Roullet (fl. c. 1435–1445)—anyone notice a pattern in the first names here?—or Ludovicus [Ludwig] Krafft (fl. c. 1460). Finally, John Forest (c. 1365 or 1370–1466), a contemporary of Leonel Power, was a cleric and dean of Wells Cathedral. Curiously, most of his surviving compositions are found in Continental rather than English manuscripts.

As always, CPO provides full texts and translations, detailed booklet notes, and excellent recorded sound. Devotees of late Medieval polyphonic sacred music should snap up these rarities forthwith; highly recommended.


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