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Briefly Noted: More Josquin

Complete Josquin Edition:
available at Amazon
M. Pange Lingua / M. La Sol Fa Re Mi / L'homme armé Masses

available at Amazon
M. Sine nomine / M. Ad fugam

available at Amazon
M. Malheur me bat / M. Fortuna desesperata
available at Amazon
Josquin Des Prez, Missa De beata virgine / Missa Ave maris stella, Tallis Scholars

(released on November 8, 2011)
Gimell CDGIM 044 | 75'58"
As someone who listens to a lot of music, I hate to answer that irksome question about my favorite composer. If pressed, however, I would probably say that I most admire the work of Josquin Des Prez (c. 1440-1521), who was the equal of Leonardo or Michelangelo in composition. He composed secular and sacred music, but for any composer worth his salt, the cyclic Mass was the symphony, the magnum opus of the day, and Josquin's polyphonic settings of the Latin Mass are the summa of the art. Every possible manner of unifying the movements of the Ordinary is explored -- canon, parody of chanson and motet, cantus firmus, chant paraphrase -- but this music is enjoyable first and foremost just as music because of the beauty of his melodic writing and the variation of textures. The Tallis Scholars have undertaken a complete recorded survey of Josquin's Masses, begun in 2006 with the re-release of a 2-CD set of their older discs devoted to this composer. The new recordings in the series, last mentioned in 2008, continue to be just as valuable as those older ones, which introduced many eager young graduate students like myself to the complexity of this music in the best way possible. Before the golden age of early music recording, graduate students spent part of their seminars singing through this kind of music -- an exercise I also enjoy and that imparts a completely different pleasure and greater knowledge.

The most recent disc, released last year, includes what in the Renaissane was likely the most known and performed of Josquin's Masses, the Missa De beata vergine (known in almost 70 different manuscript copies), which brings together paraphrases of several chants for feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As he often did, Josquin adds a fifth voice in most of the later movements, augmenting the canonic complexity but in other places stripping down the texture to more austere bicinia. In a couple of often commented on places, he creates the sensation of duple versus triple rhythm, and director Peter Phillips has restored some of the Marian tropes added to the Ordinary in Josquin's original setting, struck from the score in later editions after the Council of Trent, which eliminated all tropes from the liturgy. It is paired with an almost unknown setting of the Credo, preserved in only one source from Cambrai, a piece that may not even be by Josquin except that it is firmly identified as such in the manuscript. The disc concludes with the concise Missa Ave maris stella -- director Peter Phillips goes so far as to label it a Missa brevis -- which by its quotation of another Marian hymn rounds out the program quite nicely.

1 comment:

Charles T. Downey said...

I do want to know about it -- thank you very much indeed. I will look into getting some of those for review.