Messe de Nostre Dame
(Mass of Our Lady) is a polyphonic mass
composed before 1365
by the French poet
and cleric Guillaume de Machaut
). One of the great masterpieces of medieval music
and of all religious music, it is the earliest complete setting of the Ordinary of the Mass
attributable to a single composer.
The Messe de Nostre Dame consists of 5 movements, the Kyrie
, Agnus Dei
, followed by the Dismissal Ite Missa Est
("Go, you are envoyed"). As well as composing new music for the Mass, Machaut also selected appropriate chants for each section, each chant he selected being for the feast in honor of the Virgin Mary
Machaut's Messe de Nostre Dame is for four voices rather than the more common three. Machaut added a contratenor voice that moved in the same low range as the tenor, sometimes replacing it as the lowest voice.
In the liturgy of the Mass, the items of the Ordinary are not performed consecutively, but are separated from one another by prayers
. Machaut's unification of these items into an artistic whole imposed on the Ordinary a previously unconsidered abstract artistic idea.
Machaut composed his Messe de Nostre Dame for the Cathedral
where he was a canon
, a permanent member of the clergy
, and that it would have, perhaps been performed for the Saturday Lady Mass
, It has also been hypothesized that, in conformity with the wills of Guillaume and his brother Jean (who also was a canon at the Cathedral), the mass was transformed into a memorial service for them following their deaths (Jean died in 1372
and Guillaume in 1377
). However, neither the specific nature of its performance (if such a performance exists) nor the service the Mass was prepared for has been conclusively ascertained.
The Messe de Nostre Dame may have influenced the course of the composition of sacred music
, as Machaut being the first person to propose the concept of a single composer organizing all of the Ordinary movements of a mass into an artistic whole. However, it is doubtful that any Mass composers who directly followed him, such as Guillaume Dufay
, knew the work.
The Messe de Nostre Dame was first recorded by Safford Cape in 1956
for the Deutsche Grammophon
Archive Production Series. Current available recordings include the following:
- Guillaume de Machaut: Messe de Nostre Dame. (1993), Hilliard Ensemble directed by Paul Hillier (Hyperion CDA66358)
- Early Music - Machaut: La Messe De Nostre Dame, Le Voir Dit (1996), Oxford Camerata directed by Jeremy Summerly (Naxos 553833)
- Guillaume de Machaut - Messe de Notre Dame. (1996), Ensemble Organum directed by Marcel Peres
- Guillaume de Machaut: Messe de Nostre Dame. (2000) Ensemble Gilles Binchois directed by Dominique Vellard (Cantus 9624)
- Guillaume De Machaut's Messe De Nostre Dame
- Gilbert Reaney, Machaut (London: Oxford University Press, 1971).
- Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, Machaut's Mass: An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.
- Anne Walters Robertson. Guillaume de Machaut at Reims: Context and Meaning in his Musical Works. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2002.