List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Title: Alma redemptoris mater
Composer: Jean de Ockeghem
Title: Stabat mater
Composer: John Browne
Look, I know that ‘mater’ is not a type of classical piece like a mass or a motet is. The thing is that, chronologically, these two come one after the other in the book and both have ‘mater’ in the title. So, surprise, the mater in question is Mary and we have more religious music.
Off the bat I am going to say that I preferred the second piece. It features far more variation in the singing and is, on the whole, far more complex than the motet by Jean de Ockeghem.
This is not downplaying the first piece. It’s a nice piece of five minute choral music. The thing is – it doesn’t swoop (not a technical term) as much as the piece by John Browne. It feels very uniform and would make a good piece of background music for a scene in Cadfael.
The John Browne is far more interesting sonically. For one thing you have a choir of a wider vocal range and the members all switch harmonies during the piece. It just swoops and swirls and I just have no idea how else to describe it.
Maybe the reason this sounds better is because of the Tallis Scholars singers. For a lot of these earlier sacred pieces it is this group that the book seems to recommend most above all others. Still, it was nice. Not the sort of classical music I would go for, but a nice diversion at work.