Classical CD Reviews

ANTOINE BUSNOIS: L’Homme Arme (6 Masses attributed) – Cantica Symphonia/ Giuseppe Maletto, conductor – Glossa

Antoine Busnois was a composer of the Burgundian school who took up the mantle, as far as such a thing was possible, of Dufay after the latter’s death.

Published on January 14, 2010

ANTOINE BUSNOIS: L’Homme Arme (6 Masses attributed) – Cantica Symphonia/ Giuseppe Maletto, conductor – Glossa

ANTOINE BUSNOIS: L’Homme Arme (Six Masses attributed) – Cantica Symphonia/ Giuseppe Maletto, conductor – Glossa P31906, 71:49 **** [Distr. by Qualiton]:

Who exactly was the Burgundian phantom known as the “Armed Man”? How did this tune, probably originally a folk song but found to be di rigueur for virtually every composer of note during the 1400s, become so important to society and its musicians?

We don’t know, not really. In fact, the complete melody goes on in some sources for 30 or so bars which would seem to indicate that it was not actually a popular melody. But others disagree. Yet whether this unique set of notes is referring to St. Michael the Archangel, Philip the Good, a tavern near the home of Dufay, or a call to take back Constantinople from the Turks, its importance cannot be overestimated, and any composer worth his salt felt compelled to set it.

On this recording we are dealing with a series of six piecemeal masses attributed by many to Antoine Busnois (1430 – 1492), a composer of the aforementioned Burgundian school who took up the mantle, as far as such a thing was possible, of Dufay after the latter’s death. Busnois was of immense importance to his time, though these particular masses (from Naples) are attributed to him solely stylistically and not from any concrete physical evidence, like a name on the score! Nevertheless, scholars seem to concur on this for the most part, if you trust what they say.

For me it is of only cursory interest as to who penned these things, as they are musically superior works in every way. Because of the divergences and incompleteness of the scores, conductor Maletto has decided (along with his ensemble) to present only the sixth mass complete; however, to demonstrate the variance in the writing they have also included instrumental demonstrations from the other masses as well, and a good deal of “filling in the blanks” was also required, done very well indeed to these ears. So what we really have here is the sixth mass of the L’Homme Arme series by Antoine Busnois with interpolations from the other five. The singing and sound are truly excellent, and this becomes a valuable addition to any worthy early music collection.

For your information, the text to this chanson is as follows:

L’homme, l’homme, l’homme armé,
L’homme armé
L’homme armé doibt on doubter, doibt on doubter.
On a fait partout crier,
Que chascun se viengne armer
D’un haubregon de fer.    

(The man, the man, the armed man,
The armed man
The armed man should be feared, should be feared.
Everywhere it has been proclaimed
That each man shall arm himself
With a coat of iron mail.)
–Thanks to Wikipedia.

– Steven Ritter




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