Saturday, 28 April 2012

Cape with Good Hope (8 Down, 1 To Go!)

EMS 213 cover

Josquin 14 secular chansons
Pro Musica Antiqua, dir. Safford Cape
EMS 213 (rec. autumn 1950, Brussels)

On Thursday 26th April, I finished the penultimate chapter of my PhD thesis, which is the main thing that’s been keeping me from posting more coprolites from the Cave. Chapter 8 is three times longer than it should be and has taken me months to write, rather than the mere weeks I’d projected. Oh well, I’ve learned a lot in the process. Now I just need to re-read it plus the preceding seven, all 320 pages, before I tackle what I’ve been dreading – the final chapter, with my supposed ‘conclusions’. My main conclusion is, I don’t know what to conclude!

As a tiny celebration (and distraction), here is one of the too many LPs I’ve bought recently. In fact, I already had two copies of this lovely disc but they looked too beaten up to dub – it’s hard to tell, as they’re pressed on red vinyl, which is pretty but doesn’t show scratches or dirt. I’m trying to collect as many records of this great group as I can. I’ve just bought a couple more good uns, so we could be in for a Cape bonanza.

This record is remarkable in several ways. First, remember that in 1950 devoting an entire LP to one prehistoric composer was seriously avant-garde. Second, the sleeve carries detailed information on the music and performances, texts and translations, although not, oddly, the group’s line-up (singers of solo items are credited). Third, and most important, these are really fine performances, which present the wonderful music simply, seriously, and with complete conviction. The famous and glorious Deploration on the death of Ockeghem is here - I’ve never enjoyed it as much. Also deeply moving are Malheur me bat (which spawned several parody masses) and Incessamment mon povre cueur lamente, the latter sung with noble dolour by the great Jeanne Deroubaix. I really like the instrumentals, too – the close miking brings the gently raspy, gutty, hairy sounds into sharp focus and creates an atmosphere of intimacy and concentration – no hey-nonny-nonsense here.

The recording struggles a bit with some of the vocal numbers, though that could also be wear on my copy. Or my arm, which I never rebalance, as I should. Still, it’s come up pretty well. I see that in 1961 Archiv issued an LP devoted to Josquin, with a mass and some of the same chansons, performed by Pro Musica – but they must be re-recordings, as it was also issued in stereo (APM 14171, SAPM 198171) and I don’t believe Archiv went in for fake stereo (does anyone have it or know?). By the way, I’ve not checked if modern musicology still thinks all this is by Josquin.

Download the 14, fully tagged mono FLAC files, plus my not very good but legible scan of the back of the sleeve (my stupid A3 scanner has a chamfered border round the platen which just prevents LP covers from lying flat!), in a .rar file, here.

Tomorrow, Sunday 29th April, Jolyon and I are off to sell some 78s and LPs at the Croydon Record Fair – and probably buy far too many as well! See you there?

ADDENDUM: Listening again, I’ve remembered that the levels as originally mastered are a bit all over the place: the first  item, an instrumental, is too high compared to the vocal number which follows; several vocals sound a bit low. But I haven’t altered any levels. Also, if it had been up to me I would have ended the disc with the Deploration rather than Basiez-moi. But there you go, I’m sure Ockeghem would have agreed that life must go on, eh?

CORRIGENDUMDIDUMDIDUM: Doltishly, I included earlier versions of two files in the .rar; these both have ‘OLD’ in the file-name. The only difference from the newer versions is that I hadn’t faded out the residual surface noise at the end of one, which closes side 1, or faded it in at the start of the next, which opens side 2 with rather more noise. Sic errat Grumpius.


  1. I would love to see you and Jolyon at the Croydon fair, but unfortunately I live in Ohio, so the site is a little inconvenient for me.

    Thanks for this!

  2. Oh, and best of luck on your dissertation. I had enough trouble with my master's thesis - too much in fact (never finished it).

    1. Thank you, Buster! We'll just have to come to Ohio, then - I've never been. What was your subject? Best wishes, G

    2. Hi Nick - Hope you sold many items at Croydon, or least more than you bought. My "training" is in communications.

  3. Hi Nick, I have a copy of 198171 (73159 in the USA) and you're right. The mass was recorded on 24-26,October, 1959 and the chansons on 25-26 April 1960, both in the Palais du Comte d'Egmont in Brussels.

    1. Thank you so much! It would be interesting to hear this - I must look out for it. Sounds like you have an extensive Archiv collection! Best wishes, G

  4. hi Grumpy
    thanks for your hard work; always enjoyable. I would so like to read your thesis on the NGS... pls post a link ASAP, if you agree!
    regards, Stuart Thomas

  5. Dear Stuart, Thank you for your kind comment and apologies for not answering sooner! I'm sorry not to have posted more stuff here - I have been bought many interesting 78s and LPs but I have been hard(ish) at work on the thesis... Talking of which, I'm afraid I'm not intending to publish it in its present form (although academics will be able to access it, via the usual antediluvian channels). It's too much a work in progress, and also angled towards a particular brief set by the CHARM project. I might publish a kind of NGS discographical encyclopedia at some point but I still need to gather more information - for instance, on the artists. Best wishes, Nick

  6. Saludos desde Lima-Perú. Buscaba Safford Cape en Internet y encontré su excelente blog.

    ¡Muchísimas gracias por su trabajo! Y 'please': ¡más Cape!



    P.S.: No hablo inglés. Mil excusas.

  7. Saludos a Ud, Martín! Gracias por su amable comentario. Estoy muy feliz que le haya gustado ese disco. ¡Que casualidad - yo vivia en Lima, hace muchísimos años! Y fue esa ciudad donde me enamoré de la música clásica, con 14 años, gracias a la discoteca de mis padres. Por favor, disculpe me de no haber publicado mas desde un tiempo, acabo solamente de terminar mi doctorado. Ojalà llego a compartir con Ud. algo interesante - estoy muy impaciente de hacerlo pero tengo que comprar nuevo PC y otro material tecnico...

    Hasta luego! Nick

    PS Aprendé el castellano mirando a la tele peruana y leyendo Mafalda - ¡entonces disculpe por favor mis errores!

  8. I loved this recording so much since you posted it here - it has truly magical sound - wonder do you have anything else by them? Thank you again, it really is one of my favorites now.

    1. Thank you very much for your kind comment! I'm glad you've enjoyed this so much. The group made many records, starting in the mid-1930s on l'Anthologie Sonore, up to its sizeable legacy of Archiv LPs, plus a handful of discs for La Boîte à Musique, licensed by EMS and others. I do have more, but it's a while since I've had the time and energy to make new transfers - also because quite a few have been transferred commercially. Maybe I should draw up a list of what's available... Anyway, I'll see what I can do. Best wishes and thanks again, G