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Heinrich Isaac and Polyphony for the Proper of the Mass in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance
ed by David J. Burn and Stefan Gasch
Turnhout, Brepols Publishers, 2011
Collection Épitome musical
ISBN 978-2-503-54249-2, 438 pages, 180 x 240
The important contribution of Heinrich Isaac (ca. 1455-1517) to the genre of the proper of the mass has long been recognised. His work in this genre, collected in the monumental posthumously published Choralis Constantinus, was considered a landmark even in the sixteenth century. Yet Isaac’s magnum opus was by no means isolated. The mass proper played a much greater and more significant musical and symbolic role in the landscape of latermedieval and Renaissance music-making than is currently acknowledged. The present collection of fifteen essays offers new insight into both Isaac’s mass propers themselves, which are still shrouded by many enigmas, and their context within broader later-fifteenth and sixteenthcentury mass proper traditions. The circumstances under which Isaac’s mass propers were composed, performed, and transmitted are discussed afresh, as is the striking later-sixteenth-century reception that the Choralis experienced. Studies of previously unknown or little-examined mass proper collections from countries as widely separated as Portugal and Poland, as well as of the transformation of the genre in Lutheran territories and in the hands of William Byrd, show that Isaac’s enterprise, though the largest of its kind, was built on and embedded in a strong and ongoing tradition of proper settings and cycles.

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