The Binchois Consort’s first recordings of Dufay for Hyperion achieved iconic status, winning a Gramophone award along the way. Despite the proliferation of early music groups recording Dufay in their wake, the Binchois remain the ultimate musical authority on this great composer.
Their latest recording contains what many consider to be Dufay’s masterpiece. His Missa Se la face ay pale is one of the best known, and perhaps most revered, of all polyphonic masses. Indeed, it is a work of such renown that it enjoys a special kind of status among Renaissance mass cycles. Along with a handful of other such works, it has become a touchstone for the idea and structural design of the unified cantus firmus mass, a classic exemplification of the musical style and achievement of an era. The work is presented here, however, not as a five-movement sequence but in a more differentiated and perhaps more appropriate dramatic fashion, interspersed with music in a contrasting style for the Proper of the Mass (also five movements: Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory, Communion). The programme is completed by two motets and the ballade on which the Mass is based.
This recording evokes in sound something of the cultural achievement and brilliance of the Court of Savoy at its first peak of maturity, during the middle decades of the fifteenth century. The musical works performed here complement and enrich the historical picture of the late-medieval and Renaissance duchy that can be gleaned from the archives, libraries and museums. Live sound vividly extends and deepens the scope of such a picture, just as does an appreciation of the geographical and architectural settings which are the physical stage for such cultural developments.