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Musical History
Notes on Requiem


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Johannes Ockeghem

Ockeghem's Requiem is the earliest extant polyphonic Requiem (unless Dufay's lost setting is discovered), and in it we encounter a wide diversity of techniques and vocal scorings that range from duets for high voice in strict imitation to the full, rich style that makes its first resplendent appearance at 'Req gloriae'.  The whole shape of the work is suggestive of a gradual descent from the initial predominance of generally high ranges to the closing repose of lower pitches provided by divided basses.

Similarly the compositional techniques move from the opening ritualistic style of parallel chords to the complexities of the Offertorium.  Before the Council of Trent (1545-63) the form of the Requiem set by composers varied.  We have included the four further sections (that Ockeghem didn't not set) sung to plainchant - not to propose an 'authentic' ceremony, but to complete the musical logic by fully unwinding the thread of chant that begins the Introitus and continues, though often greatly embellished, throughout the polyphony as cantua firmus.

by Paul Hillier

Extract from the CD booklets of

Ockeghem -  Requiem, Missa Mi-Mi

(Virgin Classics 7243 5 61219 2 8)

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Revised: 07/01/05 20:36:36 -0400.