The Dutch-based vocal ensemble Cappella Pratensis – literally ‘Cappella des prés’ – champions the music of Josquin Desprez and the polyphonists of the 15th and 16th centuries. The group combines historically informed performance practice with inventive programs and original interpretations based on scholarly research and artistic insight. As in Josquin’s time, the members of Cappella Pratensis perform from a central music stand, singing from the original mensural notation scored in a large choirbook. This approach, together with attention to the linguistic origin of the compositions and the modal system on which it is based, offers a unique perspective on the repertoire. Founded in 1987, Cappella Pratensis is currently under the artistic direction of singer and conductor Stratton Bull.
Besides regular appearances at concert venues in the Netherlands and Belgium, Cappella Pratensis has performed at leading international festivals and concert series throughout Europe, North America and Japan. From 2005 to 2007, the group was ensemble-in-residence at the Fondation Royaumont (France), where it gave courses, presented concerts and worked with distinguished musicians. Cappella Pratensis has also made a series of recordings that have met with critical acclaim and distinctions from the press (including the Diapason d’Or and the Prix Choc). In 2009 the ensemble released a DVD/CD production around the Missa de Sancto Donatiano by Jacob Obrecht, which included a reconstruction of the first performance of the Mass, filmed on location in Bruges together with substantial documentary material. This production was crowned with a Diapason découverte and the highest rating from Classica magazine. The album Vivat Leo! Music for a Medici Pope (2010), with guest conductor Joshua Rifkin, received a Diapason d’Or, while the following recording (2012) features two of the oldest polyphonic settings of the Requiem, by Johannes Ockeghem and Pierre de la Rue. 2014 saw the release of a recording of music in celebration of the Annunciation, drawn from Vatican sources and featuring Josquin des Prez’s masterpiece, Missa Ave maris stella.
Cappella Pratensis also passes on insights into vocal polyphony and performance from original notation – both among professionals and amateurs – through masterclasses, multi-media presentations, collaboration with institutions, an annual summer course as part of the Laus Polyphoniae festival in Antwerp, and training young singers within the group itself. The ensemble is a partner with the universities of Leuven and Oxford in the digitization and valorisation of all the brilliant musical sources made in the workshops of the early sixteenth-century music scribe Petrus Alamire.
Cappella Pratensis performs on Sunday, November 11 as part of the Howard Mayer Brown International Early Music Series.