Unearthing forgotten works is an important principle for the Suspicious Cheese Lords. Through our research over the years, we are sometimes astonished by the amount of good Renaissance music sitting on bookshelves, in library stacks, or in manuscript form just collecting dust and waiting for an advocate. SCL’s recordings reflect our earnest attempt to share some superb, yet neglected, master compositions with the world. To date our four premiere recordings have brought forth fifty-two tracks of glorious “ear candy” and some would even say “food for the soul”. We’ll let you be the judge. Please enjoy!
Mæstro di Capella – Music of Elzéar Genet (Carpentras)
(2002) Produced by Tina Chancey; liner notes by Richard Sherr.
The Cheese Lords’ first CD features thirteen previously unrecorded tracks! Our interest in Elzéar Genet was piqued after hearing Alexander Blachly and Pomerium perform one of his Lamentation settings. During our research at the Library of Congress you can imagine our surprise to find that so few of Genet’s works had ever been recorded. Also known as Carpentras – the town in France where he was born, Genet spent time in Rome and was the first musician to hold the title of master of the Papal Chapel. Our CD features a sampling of his musical output: one of five mass settings, one of fourteen Magnificats, and seven motets. Some of our favorites are the sonorous Virgo Prudentissima, the exuberant Jubilate Deo, and the reverent Hæc est illa dulcis rosa. So why did this Renaissance master and his music become so overlooked? It probably has to do with the popularity of one of Genet’s successors in Rome – a certain Italian musician hailing from the town of Palestrina.
Missa L’homme armé – Sacred Music of Ludwig Senfl
(2004) Produced by Tina Chancey; liner notes by Honey Meconi.
As a Washington, DC-based ensemble, the Cheese Lords have been fortunate to perform at several embassies and ambassadorial residences. After the success of our Genet recording, we began a dialog with the Swiss cultural counselor at the time who suggested that Ludwig Senfl should be our next project. Senfl is better known for his secular pieces. Most of his sacred works are unrecorded. We quickly discovered that this composer was certainly worthy of our time. The result: nine more tracks of early music not recorded before! The title of our sophomore album refers to L’homme armé, perhaps the most popular secular song during the Renaissance. How do we know it was popular? More than forty composers used this tune as the cantus firmus in their setting of the Mass ordinary. Amazingly, Senfl’s mass setting based on L’homme armé was unrecorded! Also included on this disc are his five-voice Miserere mei, Deus, a Te Deum with a reconstructed alto line by Washington scholar, Mike Donaldson, and a piece in quodlibet form (think Renaissance-era mash-up) featuring the Virgo prudentissima chant melody mixed with the popular secular song, Fortuna Desperata.
Vivat rex! – Sacred Choral Music of Jean Mouton
(2007) Produced by Tina Chancey; liner notes by Thomas G. MacCracken.
2006 marked SCL’s tenth anniversary and we began exploring other Renaissance composers for a new recording. Fortune smiled on us when Thomas MacCracken, [now former] editor of Jean Mouton’s complete works edition, published by the American Institute of Musicology, approached us. Compared to Genet and Senfl, Jean Mouton is a better-known Renaissance master. With Tom’s expert guidance, our third CD premiered thirteen tracks of previously unrecorded Mouton compositions. Remarkably, one of these pieces is his Missa Alma redemptoris mater based on the florid Gregorian chant. This setting is specifically mentioned by Renaissance music theorist Heinrich Glarean in his treatise Dodecachordan (1547), saying that Mouton “… composed some very important masses, approved by the Supreme Pontiff, Leo X, such masses as Alma Redemptoris and very many others which are in all hands.” Among the motets, one of our performance favorites is the lovely Quam pulchra es … carissima, set to the words of the Song of Songs, Chapter 7. Some of Mouton’s Christmas compositions have been recorded by others, so we felt compelled to include his short motet, Puer natus est nobis. The piece ends with “Vivat rex”, which became the title of our CD.
In Terra Pax – Renaissance Music for Advent and Christmas
(2013) Produced by Tina Chancey; liner notes by Noel O’Regan.
Before 2013 perhaps the most-commonly asked questions after our performances (especially during the Christmas season), were “Do we have a Christmas recording?” and “When are we going to record a Christmas CD?” We’ve performed so many delightful Christmas pieces over the years [both recorded and not], we knew that we’d have to take a different approach. Rather than focus on one composer, we selected a variety of pieces from Renaissance composers representing modern-day France, Germany, Italy, the Low Countries, Slovenia, and Spain.
We’re pleased that our fourth recording contains sixteen pieces – with only three, the Lætabundus chant, a Palestrina motet, and the well-known There is no rose, having been recorded by others. There are four pieces set to the rather ubiquitous Renaissance Christmas text, Christus natus est. We included another unrecorded work by Genet, a fantastic six-voice motet by Thomas Crequillon, and a setting of In dulci jubilo written in common time instead of the usual triple meter. Two pieces we truly consider gems of the recording are Dominique Phinot’s Ave Maria and Ivo de Vento’s O magnum mysterium – both stunningly beautiful works! Since Palestrina is regarded by many as the greatest of Renaissance composers, one might assume that all his works have been recorded. This is far from the truth. Our recording also premieres a previously unrecorded parody mass based on Palestrina’s own five-voice motet, O admirabile commercium. The 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica waxed, “Palestrina-scholars will hardly think us singular for placing [O admirabile and some other Masses] on the same plane as the Missa Papae Marcelli.” You can decide for yourself.