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26.4.08

Tallis Scholars Continue Complete Josquin Edition

available at Amazon
Josquin des Prés, Missa Sine nomine / Missa Ad fugam, Tallis Scholars

(released March 11, 2008)
Gimell CDGIM 039


Other Josquin Masses:
available at Amazon
M. Pange Lingua / M. La Sol Fa Re Mi / L'homme armé Masses
(half-price 2-CD set)
To all those choir directors out there willing to program Palestrina, Victoria, and Byrd, you need to branch out and try some Josquin. By all accounts, Josquin des Prés (c. 1440-1521) was the Beethoven of his age, the undisputed "master of the notes, which must express what he desires, while other composers have to do what the notes dictate." To get to know the glories of the most contrapuntal era, there are fewer better ambassadors than the Tallis Scholars, who with this recent release have announced their plan to record a complete cycle of the Mass settings of Josquin (two older discs have been rechristened as the first and second parts). And to appreciate Josquin's mastery of the notes, what better repertoire than his two Mass settings based entirely on canonic imitation?

Josquin gives a tribute to his teacher, the contrapuntist par excellence Johannes Ockeghem, when he quotes from his own funeral chanson for Ockeghem, Nymphes des bois in the "Et incarnatus est" section of the later of the two Masses recorded here, Missa Sine nomine. It is presented first, the summa of Josquin's composition using strict canons, with his youthful attempt at the process in Missa Ad fugam. In a nice touch, Peter Phillips has made a recording of a rare surviving Renaissance revision, transcribed from a manuscript in the Jena University library, more concise versions of the Sanctus and Agnus Dei from Missa Ad fugam. The sound, captured in Norfolk's Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, is warm and full. The singing hews to the Tallis Scholars standard, full-throated and impeccably tuned, straight of tone and nicely balanced. My recent complaints about the occasional mixture issues are in evidence here, too, as here one voice or there another growls obtrusively instead of yielding to the ensemble. Those concerns are negligible in what is a most pleasing account of this complex music.

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