Nicolas Gombert : Motets
BEAUTY FARM (Bart Uvyn [countertenor], Achim Schulz [tenor], Adriaan De Koster [tenor], Hannes Wagner [tenor], Joachim Höchbauer [bass], Martin Vögerl [bass])
Nicolas Gombert (c. 1495 – c. 1560) is one the leading composers of the generation between Josquin and Palestrina. He was probably born in southern Flanders and was, according to Hermann Finck’s Pratica musica (1556), taught by Josquin (if this is true it would probably have been during Josquin’s last years in Condé). In 1526 Nicolas Gombert joined the chapel choir of Emperor Charles V in Spain, and by 1529 was its maître des enfants. His position at the most prestigious court in Europe allowed him to travel throughout the continent with the Imperial entourage and, as a result, his reputation spread. It seems that Nicolas Gombert served unofficially as a court composer and his compositions were printed by all the major European publishers; his fame was such that the Venetian firms of Scotto and Gardane issued collected editions of his motets. However, in about 1540, his career was halted when he was sentenced to the galleys for gross indecency with a choirboy. He earned his release and finished his career as canon at the Cathedral of Tournai.
Gombert’s compositions are all vocal, some for ensembles of up to twelve parts. His contrapuntal language is based on that of Josquin, but taken to the next level of complexity. Imitation is used even more con-sistently than did Josquin, and Gombert’s vocal textures are often densely packed and the individual lines are characterised by an avoidance of rests. A substantial number of Gombert’s compositions survive, including ten masses, over 160 motets, 60 secular chansons, and a set of eight Magnificats (one in each mode). The motets on this recording, for 4–6 voices, are all fine representations of Gombert’s musical style as described by Hermann Finck in 1556:
«Nostro autem tempore novi sunt inventores, in quibus est Nicolaus Gombert, Josquini piae memoriae discipulus, qui omnibus musicis ostendit viam, imo semitam ad quaerendas fugas, ac subtilitatem, ac est autor Musices plane diversae a superiori. Is enim vitat pausas et illius compositio est plena cum concordantiarum tum fugarum.»
«In our time there are innovators, among whom Nicolaus Gombert, pupil of Josquin of blessed memory, shows all musicians the way – nay more, the exact path to refinement and the desired imitative manner. He composes music altogether differently to the past: he avoids rests, and his compositions are rich with full harmonies and imitations.»