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  40:5 (05-06 /2017)
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Reviewer: J. F. Weber


Heinrich Finck (c. 1444–1527) is poorly documented, his year of birth calculated merely from his age (83) upon his death in 1527. He may have begun his career in Krakow, moving to the Lithuanian court, then the Stuttgart court and in the service of the archbishop of Salzburg. He died at the Schottenstift in Vienna. I have his music on over a dozen discs, but the only major item is the oldest, Harold Brown’s recording of the Missa de beata Virgine for three voices, issued in 1962 but not reviewed until 1965. This new offering may be the first full CD of his music, nicely varied to include a Mass, a Magnificat, two motets, and two secular songs.


The Mass is the major work heard here. Since it is based on the sequence that gives it the title, Finck has the opportunity to use different cantus firmi in each section of the Mass, for a sequence has a new melody for each pair of verses. Cyclical unity is achieved by the recurrence of the initial melody after each section. This is a remarkable achievement not frequently encountered in Masses of the period, and it is a wonder that the Mass has been overlooked until now. The style is reminiscent of Finck’s exact contemporary, Josquin des Prez. The notes are misleading in using “seven parts” for both motets; the first is for seven voices, while the other (for four voices, with a fifth added at the end) consists of seven strophes. Running over 12 minutes, this is an impressive work.


The performers are familiar from a Festa disc (Fanfare 28:6), a Stolzer disc (30:2), and an Arcadelt program, all of which show their interest in unfamiliar repertoire. Since this first full Finck CD is so good, it’s unfortunate that the Mass is sung incomplete, ending without explanation after the first phrase of the Sanctus and omitting the Agnes Dei. The contents show the Mass as Ausschnitte (excerpts), so the rest of the Mass setting seems to exist. This case of poor judgment disables a disc that is otherwise highly recommended. If the omission is unimportant to you, don’t hesitate to acquire this marvelous survey of Heinrich Finck’s music.

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