Performers: Josep Benet, Patrick Aubailly, Frederic Richard, Josep Cabre, Marcel Peres, Malcolm Bothwell, Antoine Sicot
Recording date: September 1990
This is an all-male vocal recording, including chant (Propers) and polyphony (Ordinary). The Mass of Tournai is early 14th century, a decade or so before that of Machaut. Some have argued that it does not show a unified design, and so Machaut's setting is the first unified mass cycle. The respective unities are not clear - at most it is a matter of degree - although it is not known whether this mass was composed by one composer or many. At any rate, it is the first mass cycle declared as such. The concluding Ite missa est leads into a true motet, with different texts in the two upper voices.
Besides the Mass of Tournai (c.1330), there are also contemporary mass cycles from Sorbonne, Toulouse and Barcelona. Each shows a somewhat different style within the 14th century context.
The Flemish Messe de Tournai is the earliest complete polyphonic mass setting in existence. It is set for three voices and is found in a manuscript in the archives of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in the Belgian city of Tournai; its shelfmark is B-Tc Bibliotheque Capitulaire 476. The Messe de Tournai was composed, or rather, compiled in 1325 at the earliest, when the choir in Tournai Cathedral was completed, and at the latest 1330. That makes it a little earlier than other extended fourteenth century mass settings that exist in Toulouse, Barcelona, and Sorbonne; it consists of a Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and an added motet, "Ite missa est." Of these, the Kyrie, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei are given in the same handwriting and are known in no other source. These sections are largely set in so-called "conductus style," a fauxbourdon-esque note-against-note holdover from the Ars Antiqua that is limited in range and in its approach to rhythm. The Gloria, Credo, and motet "Ite missa est" are in a different hand, and the Credo is found in manuscripts in Spain and the south of France, suggesting that the composition may have originated there. "Ite missa est" contains a triplum set to a secular text in a local dialect, suggesting that this piece, and perhaps the whole work, may have had some relation to a pageant on the Annunciation given in Tournai from about 1231. "Ite missa est" is the most well traveled of any movement from the Messe de Tournai, turning up in a manuscript fragment in Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland).
- Uncle Dave Lewis (All Music Guide)