Brumel: Earthquake Mass

March 9, 2019 @ Espoo Cathedral, Finland
Tickets: 20 / 15 € at the venue

”And, behold, there was a great earthquake!”

You’ve probably never before heard this magnificent pearl of Renaissance music in concert. And for a good reason: few ensembles will take the challenge. Antoine Brumel’s twelve-voice ”Earthquake Mass” is quite a demanding work to perform – but for the listener Et ecce terræ motus presents a shaking pleasure, so grab this rare occasion when the Utopia Chamber Choir brings about an earthquake at Espoo Cathedral on Saturday, March 9th 2019.

Born in the 1460’s in France near Chartres, Antoine Brumel isn’t nowadays very well known, but in his time he was praised as a composer as well as a skillful singer according to the sources. Apparently he was a stubborn and restless adventurer who wouldn’t skip a chance to show off his artistic talent. Young Brumel taught choristers in renowned cathedrals in many cities, such as Geneva and Notre Dame of Paris, but often had to relocate having angered a local official or one of the numerous church bigwigs.

In his last years Antoine Brumel was active in Italy, first in the Renaissance court of Ferrara, then in major cathedrals of Rome. He died supposedly in 1520, but the exact year isn’t known. It is very telling of Brumel’s success with his contemporaries that, although in a time where only new music was performed, almost exclusively, Brumel’s Earthquake mass was sung in the Bavarian court, nearly 50 years after his death, led by the great 16th century musical genius Orlando di Lasso himself, who nowadays is far better known than Brumel.

Maybe Brumel’s spirited artistic character and restless life are mirrored in the Earthquake Mass, with its thoroughly brilliant twelve-voice texture and exceptionally powerful rhytmic drive. Traditionally Renaissance music has been performed with legato and long, meditative phrases. Lately this conception has begun to shatter: Brumel’s Mass is a strong example of a piece that requires a relentless tactus and stark handling of the text.

The Mass is named after the happenings of Easter morning. The antiphon ”And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, halleluja” can be heard as a cantus firmus in many voices throughout the Mass.

When performing Renaissance polyphony, some of the voices can be doubled with sackbuts (trombones), which gives the music an impressive additional tint. Sackbuts fit Brumel’s Earthquake Mass particularly well. In Utopia Chamber Choir’s concert we are joined by Finland’s leading baroque trombonists Esa Fagerholm, Vesa Lehtinen and Martti Vesola.

You are warmly welcome to the concert!