- Missa Inviolata, for 4 voices
- Salve regina No. 6 for 4 voices
Pierre de la Rue, an almost exact contemporary of Josquin des Prez, has never been as popular as his Flemish countryman. There are various reasons for this, most notably the fact that Josquin's structural ingenuity mostly lay on the surface while La Rue's were often more arcane. Nevertheless, the music of La Rue, whose favored form was the mass Ordinary, was widely copied and even printed in his own time, and strong performances of his music, like the ones offered here, cannot help but increase the listener's understanding of music around 1500. England's Brabant Ensemble under Stephen Rice specializes in this repertory, and although the small group of mixed-gender adults is not historically authentic, the expressive style connects with the music. It turns out that although some devices in these masses (and "Salve Regina") are hidden, others are positively attention-grabbing. La Rue favors what would later be called chains of motives or chains of suspensions in vigorous polyphonic passages, set against limpid, reverential passages that could easily be mistaken for Josquin. Sample the final "Agnus Dei" of the lovely "Missa Inviolata." Equally interesting is the "Missa Nuncqua fue pena mayor," a cantus firmus mass that, like the various "Missa L'homme armé," is based on a popular song. La Rue did not go to Italy like Josquin did, but he accompanied his patron, Philip the Handsome, to Spain, where he entered the employ of Philip's wife, known as Juana la Loca or Joanna the Mad. Her "madness" resulted to some degree from her husband's infidelity, and the song La Rue uses as his cantus firmus may have referred to these events. Nothing is certain at this great remove, but the entire episode gives an idea of the more topical meanings a composition like this might have. Hyperion delivers excellent sound from the Parish Church of St. John the Baptist, Loughton, Essex, and in sum this is a satisfying release expanding our understanding of a composer thought to be among the lesser lights of the Franco-Flemish style.