Missa De plus en plus
Johannes Ockeghem (ca. 1420-1497)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 2 Tracks 28-30
Ockeghem's mass gives evidence that an affection for loud music is not a recent development. The four equal voices, tangled though they sometimes may be, come together in the type of large square harmonies that must seem very appealing to brass players.
The harmonies are the salient difference this type of piece has from its pre-renaissance grandparents. In fact, individually, the voices are not so different. Generally, each voice carries well crafted musical lines without concern for voice crossing. Often the lowest voice will have the longest notes, but other than that the each part requires the same skills from the performers. To my ears, the preference for the triad seems a bit of a loss. However, with this discrimination comes a more consistent sound capable of filling a cathedral.
What I like about Ockeghem's effort is his attention to the bass line. Although the sound of the piece is wonderful, it does not change. It is with the bass line that Ockeghem creates a sense of form. The best example is the section recorded on track 29. Here, the bottom voice drops out for several bars. This absence gives the other three voices room to convey the feeling of ascension unique to these measures.