Missa Se la face ay pale
Guillaume Du Fay (ca. 1397-1474)
What was once a threat to reject the gift of life is now a celebration of that gift. Perhaps the original was only a bluff. Because Mr. Du Fay has used his decidedly secular tune as the unifying theme for this mass one may pause to speculate on either the sincerity of his religious feelings or the earnestness of his lovesick song. This would be unfair to our gifted composer not only since this flexibility was a common practice but mainly because, whatever the motivations, this is simply good music.
There is also a flexibility in instrumentation. In this recording we hear singers doubled on some instruments, including brass instruments near the end. But this, I think, does not matter since the beauty of this piece is more in how the lines fit together than the instruments or voices that present them. The musical lines are always beautiful and wonderful to follow. Even in the final moments when each line is at its strongest Mr. Du Fay maintains his gentle regard for the listener.
What I like about this work is how Mr. Du Fay makes use of the variety of ensembles within the quartet of voices. The way, for example, he starts the work as a duet. This technique has two benefits; it provides contrast and it makes the individual lines easy for the listener to follow.