Mass upon John Dunstable’s square
World premiere recording Nicholas Ludford (ca. 1490 - 1557)
La Quintina: Jérémie Couleau ténor & direction Esther Labourdette soprano Sylvain Manet contre-ténor Christophe Deslignes orgue portatif
For their second album, La Quintina premiere an unknown Mass by English Renaissance composer Nicholas Ludford (c1490-1557), performed by three crystal-clear singers and a sprightly organetto. It’s not so straightforward, though, for this is also an immersion into improvised musical practices via squares (square note notation). Little known today, the concept is simple enough: a pre-existing tune such as a popular song forms the basis for melodic invention. Squares are therefore a deliberately incomplete notation, an invitation to imagine two-part polyphonic music floating above. You could liken it to a cantus firmus Mass made up on the spot but within a very specific tradition, of which La Quintina and Jérémie Couleau have made a decade-long study. Intriguingly, though, there are also sections of polyphony borrowed from other sources and retexted (contrafactum) in this programme that flow seamlessly with the many faburdens and discant sections.
For the full text of this review please click: Gramophone, February 2024