Music in 14th century Europe was dominated by the composers working in the Low Countries, or what we now call The Netherlands and Belgium and Northern France. Dufay was born in Cambrai, but went to Italy in the 1420s to work in Bologna, and eventually became a member of the Papal choir before returning to Cambrai. Josquin Desprez was from Flanders, and moved to Milan in 1460, and like Dufay became a member of the Papal choir, before moving to Cambrai. He was one of the first composers to benefit from the printing of music and his reputation traveled far and wide as a result. His music is beautifully crafted, and he attempted to convey in music the inner meaning of the words - one of the earliest instances of a composer exploring the expressive possibilities of text and music. Ockeghem was born in Dendermonde, and he traveled to Spain and throughout Flanders. His music, like Josquin’s is superbly crafted, with intricate rhythmic sections, and a seamless flow of counterpoint.
Music in the early 20th century did pass from one medium to another, from late Romanticism into an unknown future. Refractions allows the listener to sample this transition through the choral music of four very different composers.
Dominique Visse and his group Ensemble Clément Janequin have been involved in many outstanding projects over the years, but this 2002 Harmonia Mundi recording has to be one of the most spectacular; the Missa "Et ecce terrae motus" (aka, "The Earthquake Mass") of Antoine Brumel. Brumel is one of many mid-renaissance composers whose reputations are so far overshadowed by Josquin Desprez that – like Rodney Dangerfield – they "just don't get no respect." In Brumel's own time, however, he was considered one of Josquin's equals and his death in 1512 was widely observed in a number of "déplorations." Although the mass itself survives in only a single manuscript copy, it bears the signatures of singers who revived the work in Munich in 1570 – probably close to a century after it was first given – and among them is a bass named Orlandus Lassus.