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I bet there are 40 version of this by verious composer but if we stick whit renaissance than there your four contenders.

Dufay is great since it's simple we could says rustic since more primitive, he started the theme
Ockeghem is on of my least favorite missa l'homme arme, Josquin l'homme arme is colorfull perhaps more than ockeghem, than i seen there is Palestrina who did a similar mass same thematic...

so im asking you, for you what the best missa l'homme arme i dont know if i ask you this before but now your chance to answer, show me cd of your utter best missa l'homme arme


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You might want to add the seminal Busnois Mass to your list, but even if you do, I still favor Josquin's Missa "L'homme armé" super voces musicales (not to be confused with his Missa "L'homme armé" sexti toni) …

JOSQUIN des Prez: Missa "L'homme armé" super voces musicales (1490s)
:: Turner/Pro Cantione Antiqua [Archiv '76]

The popular tune "L'homme armé" ("The Armed Man") was used as the cantus firmus (a pre-existing "fixed song" around which a polyphonic composition is built) for many masses in the Early and Middle Renaissance (more than 40 survive), not the least of which is Josquin's Missa "L'homme armé" super voces musicales. "Super voces musicales" indicates that the "L'homme armé" theme is transposed (if that's the proper term when dealing with old church modes) one step higher up the natural hexachord in each succeeding movement: C (Kyrie) > D (Gloria) > E (Credo) > F (Sanctus) > G (Agnus Dei I) > A (Agnus Dei III). The work is said to be in the Dorian mode, but I'm not sure just how strictly Josquin sticks to it. In any event, that's the general scheme of the Mass as I dubiously understand it.

Most of Josquin's masses, including his other "L'homme armé" mass, the Sexti toni, are very much of their time (or ahead of their time): thoroughly up-to-date Middle Renaissance masses of relative rhythmic and harmonic freedom and an almost tonal character. Super voces musicales is in many ways a throwback to the pre-dawn of the Renaissance, a more rigorous and prescribed and mathematically oriented time when mensuration canons and isorhythmic motets still roamed the Earth. In fact, the Mass features several mensuration canons (a.k.a. prolation canons), with the impressive three-out-of-one mensuration canon of Agnus Dei II being widely celebrated. (A mensuration canon is one in which the different voices progress at different speeds; there's a definition and a nice little example from the just-mentioned Agnus Dei II at Wikipedia: )

In addition to its formality and old-fashioned virtues, the Mass (as Peter Phillips of The Tallis Scholars fame points out) is also notable for the relatively frequent overlapping of its polyphonic ranges, with the upper and lower voices trespassing on the middle range more often than usual in such music. This closeness of vocal ranges gives the work a relatively dense, tightly packed feel. By contrast, Josquin separates the voices a good deal more widely in Sexti toni, and that work has a relatively airy, spacious feel about it.

Such prescribed formality, closeness of vocal ranges, and respect for the old ways might sound like a recipe for one deadly dull mass, but Josquin thrives on the challenge of composing within these bounds, which seems to focus and inspire him to be as inventive as possible "within the rules," to make the utmost of what he's still free to do. In effect, the more he embraces these limitations, the more he transcends them, finding a rare and elusive beauty in the abstract polyphonic rigor and a sincere and unaffected expressiveness in the emotionally guarded, almost academic, ways of the past. In many ways, Josquin's mass is the antithesis of the very mass that likely inspired it, Busnois' athletic and free-spirited Missa "L'homme armé," a work that defies convention as Josquin's work exploits it. When listening to the results, it's curious to think that the two works evolve from the same tune.

As for recordings, I strongly favor the one by Bruno Turner & Pro Cantione Antiqua (PCA) on Archiv. PCA puts the work across with tremendous conviction in a highly wrought performance that has all the earnestness and ardency and hushed intensity and sense of purpose that any listener could ask for-more than many listeners may want, in fact. PCA employs two voices per part but cuts back to one voice per part at times; vocal balances aren't always ideal, with prominent counter-tenors and occasionally reticent basses, and the very counter-tenor-y sounding counter-tenors won't win over those who hate counter-tenors, but such matters tend to be forgotten once one is drawn into the performance. I'm not keen on any of the half dozen or so alternative recordings-I especially dislike the slow, lax Phillips/Tallis Scholars [Gimell] account-but they all seem to have their admirers. Bourbon/Métamorphoses [Calliope '09] is perhaps the most interesting of the alternatives to me, and it's coupled with a good account of the Sexti toni mass.

If forced to pick a runner-up in this "L'homme armé" contest, I'd go with the Busnois. I'm hard pressed to choose between the Turner/PCA [Archiv] and Kirkman/Binchois Consort [Hyperion] recordings, however.
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