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Josquin des PRÉS (c. 1440-1521)
Plainchant – Gaudeamus omnes [1:13] MissaGaudeamus [35:57] Missa L’ami Baudichon [29:37]
The Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips
rec. the Chapel of Merton College, Oxford
Latin texts and English, French & German translations included GIMELLCDGIM050 [66:48]
It’s two years since the last instalment in the projected complete
set of Josquin Masses from Peter Phillips and The Tallis Scholars (review).
This latest release is the seventh in the series and I understand there
will be two more before the mission is accomplished.
These two Mass settings are very different from each other. Peter Phillips
tells us in his notes that MissaGaudeamus was probably
written right in the middle of Josquin’s Mass-writing career;
it is thought to be the ninth of his eighteen settings. It was written
for the Feast of All Saints and it’s based on a plainchant melody,
which we hear in full, sung by three tenors, before the Mass itself
is performed. In the main, Josquin only uses the first six notes of
the chant for his structural framework. By contrast, Missa L’ami
Baudichon is based on a three-note figure from a decidedly risqué
French chanson. This Mass was probably composed around 1475.
The four-voice MissaGaudeamus, says Phillips, “represents
Renaissance artistry at its most intense”. The Kyrie is fairly
concise in terms of the amount of time needed to sing it – just
under three minutes here – but it seems to pack in quite a lot
in terms of musical invention. In the Gloria, Peter Philips draws attention
to the inventiveness with which Josquin deploys his six-note motif –
apparently, at one point the tenors sing it for 45 continuous bars –
but even if, like me, you can’t always pick up this technical
accomplishment in what you hear, it’s impossible not to be impressed
by the aural web of amazingly intricate polyphony. The music of the
‘Qui tollis’ section is very poised at first but gradually
grows in intensity and the brief ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’ bursts
with positive energy. In the Credo my ear was caught in particular by
the ‘Et incarnatus’ section with its wonderful long lines
in every vocal part. When ‘Et Resurrexit’ is reached the
members of The Tallis Scholars invest the music with a palpable sense
of jubilation and that’s even more marked at ‘Qui ex Patre
Filioque procedit’. The closing moments of the Creed are exultant;
here, Josquin’s music is fast-moving and the singers make it truly
Later on in the work, the two ‘Hosanna’ sections are exuberant
and vital; the second of these provides a super contrast, coming as
it does after the solemn music of the Benedictus. In this passage of
music the vocal parts seem almost to fall over each other, so teeming
are the textures. The three-fold Agnus Dei consists of a first ‘Agnus’
sung by the consort. The second is a lovely and extended canon for the
two sopranos, superbly sung here. The third ‘Agnus’ is the
longest and the most intricate - Peter Phillips outlines Josquin’s
dazzling compositional virtuosity in his notes. His expert singers bring
Josquin’s music to life: despite the technical accomplishment
that lies behind it there’s absolutely nothing dry or remotely
academic about the music when it’s delivered like this.
Peter Phillips believes that the name Baudichon was probably given as
a nickname for a ‘lusty and swaggering youth’. As I said
earlier, Missa L’ami Baudichon takes as its inspiration
a rather bawdy chanson, albeit only three notes are used. Phillips
says that the Mass “represents Renaissance artistry at its most
skittish”. Certainly, the Kyrie, though beautifully conceived,
doesn’t seem to be the earnest plea for mercy that the words indicate.
In the Gloria, the textures seem to me to be simpler than in the other
Mass. The concluding section, beginning at ‘Qui sedes ad dexteram
Patris’ displays youthful exuberance; you can sense Josquin flexing
his compositional muscles. Such exuberance is also evident at the start
of the Credo; this is fervent music, performed here with terrific spirit.
Peter Phillips rightly draws our attention to the ‘Et resurrexit’
section. He tells us that this lasts for 157 bars and it seems to me
to constitute a veritable stream of virtuosic music. The performance
has great dynamism and Josquin’s music is fast-paced and genuinely
exciting. If anyone thinks that Renaissance polyphony is dull then surely
this track on the CD would change their mind. After the frenetic activity
at the end of the Credo the ordered lines of the Sanctus provide a welcome
contrast. The short ‘Hosanna’ sections impress through the
majestic nature of the music, albeit in a compressed form. I sat back
and simply enjoyed listening to this cheerful setting of the Mass.
As ever, The Tallis Scholars sing all the music on this disc flawlessly.
However, what we hear is far from calculated “mere” perfection.
The singers, responding to Peter Phillips’ direction, bring these
Masses vividly to life. The ensemble has been recorded expertly by engineer
Philip Hobbs. He’s long experienced in recording The Tallis Scholars
in the acoustic of Merton College Chapel and it shows. The acoustic
is ideally suited to music and performances such as these and the singers
have been recorded with great clarity and just the right mount of ambience.
As usual, the release is comprehensively documented.
This is another memorable issue in The Tallis Scholars’ Josquin
The Tallis Scholars Josquin Mass series on MusicWeb International Missa Malheur me bat and Missa Fortuna desperatareviewreview Missa De beata virgine and Missa Ave maris stellareviewreview Missa L’homme armé super voces musicales and Missa
L’homme armé sexti tonireview Missa Pange Lingua and Missa La sol fa re mireview Missa Sine Nomine and Missa Ad fugamreview Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass) and Missa Une mousse de Biscayereview