This disc offers the recording of a polyphonic masterpiece, de la Rue's Missa cum Jocunditate, but it's also an homage to Hyeronimus Bosch whose 500th death anniversary is celebrated all over the world. Bosch and de la Rue lived in the same period and were both member of the same Confraternity: most likely Bosch attended a performance of this Mass. Cappella Pratensis is an experienced ensemble with a rich discography of polyphonic works on Challenge Classics. They perform according to the rules of a strictest musicological and practice research.
Music clearly fascinated the great Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450-1516); his sketches and paintings are peppered with closely observed depictions of music-making and musical instruments. Bosch, a native of 's-Hertogenbosch in the Duchy of Brabant, was a life-long brother of the city's Brotherhood of Our Illustrious Lady, a large and prestigious organization for which sacred music was an essential and highly-valued part of its devotional life. Every Wednesday Bosch could gather with his Confraternity brothers in their opulent chapel in the church of St. John the Evangelist to celebrate a votive Mass in honour of the Blessed Virgin. This recording aims to capture a sense of the devotional soundscape that Bosch experienced throughout his life as a member of this music-loving Marian brotherhood. Instead of the frightening cacophony conjured by the artist's vision of Hell, we encounter here the joy and serenity of the weekly Marian votive Mass liturgy. We have chosen the Missa Cum jocunditate by Pierre de la Rue (c.1452-1518), who was not only the most renowned composer of the Habsburg-Burgundian court but also an external member of the brotherhood from the early 1490s until his death in 1518. Indeed, La Rue may well have had occasion to meet Bosch during these years. Cappella Pratensis sings from the original notation, reading from scale copies of the confraternity's manuscripts of plainsong and polyphony, and adopts the Brabant pronunciation of Latin those singers surely employed. They also read together from one large music book, like the men portrayed in the Singers in the Egg sketch attributed to Bosch
The Dutch-based vocal ensemble Cappella Pratensis - literally 'Cappella des prés' - champions the music of Josquin Desprez and the polyphonists of the 15th and 16th centuries. The group combines historically informed performance practice with inventive programmes and original interpretations based on scholarly research and artistic insight. As in Josquin's time, the members of Cappella Pratensis perform from a central music stand, singing from the original mensural notation scored in a large choirbook. This approach, together with attention to the linguistic origin of the compositions and the modal system on which it is based, offers a unique perspective on the repertoire. Founded in 1987, Cappella Pratensis is currently under the artistic direction of singer and conductor Stratton Bull.
Besides regular appearances at concert venues in the Netherlands and Belgium, Cappella Pratensis has performed at leading international festivals and concert series throughout Europe, North America and Japan. From 2005 to 2007, the group was ensemble-in-residence at the Fondation Royaumont (France), where it gave courses, presented concerts and worked with distinguished musicians. Cappella Pratensis has also made a series of CD recordings that have met with critical acclaim and distinctions from the press (including the Diapason d'Or and the Prix Choc). In 2009 the ensemble released a DVD/CD production around the Missa de Sancto Donatiano by Jacob Obrecht, which included a reconstruction of the first performance of the Mass, filmed on location in Bruges together with substantial documentary material. This production was crowned with a Diapason découverte and the highest rating from Classica magazine.
The CD Vivat Leo! Music for a Medici Pope (2010), with guest conductor Joshua Rifkin, received a Diapason d'Or. The group's most recent CD features two of the oldest polyphonic settings of the Requiem, by Johannes Ockeghem and Pierre de la Rue.
Cappella Pratensis also passes on insights into vocal polyphony and performance from original notation - both among professionals and amateurs - through masterclasses, multi-media presentations, collaboration with institutions, an annual summer course as part of the Laus Polyphoniae festival in Antwerp, and training young singers within the group itself. The ensemble is a partner with the universities of Leuven and Oxford in the digitization and valorization of all the brilliant musical sources made in the workshops of the early sixteenthcentury music scribe Petrus Alamire.