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Josquin the Undead

Graindelavoix/Björn Schmelzer (Glossa)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GCDP32117_Desprez

Josquin the Undead
Laments, deplorations and dances of death by Josquin, Gombert, Jean Le Brun and Appenzeller
Graindelavoix/Björn Schmelzer
Glossa GCDP32117   75:29 mins

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Last year was the 500th anniversary of Josquin’s death. This recording is based on a collection of his works published by Tielman Susato in 1545 in Antwerp. Just a few months ago, however, Dominique Visse (on Ricercar) also produced a version of the collection. No matter. The two approaches are interestingly different.

Traditionalists will probably prefer the Visse version with its straightforward rhythms and uncomplicated textures. Graindalavoix are more adventurous. They incorporate instrumental elaborations and add ornaments to the individual lines. In a piece such as Parfons regretz. this allows the singer of a particular part to sing as though responding to the text personally with slightly free momentary musical flickers of grief (the inner parts are played on instruments). In Nymphes, nappé, by contrast the texture is held together by a bass line that moves in a modern way with strong directional intervals. This binds the surface embellishments more clearly to the natural momentum of the overall texture and produces a more corporate expression of grief – though Björn Schmelzer ‘enhances’ these musical explanations in the liner notes with references to Freud, the soul, Josquin’s ‘undead’ presence and so on. The lighter pieces include Petite camusette which is based on a popular song, sung solo first, then surrounded by a delightful jamboree of vocal and instrumental forces. The finest singing on the disc comes in two great laments: Josquin’s Nymphes de bois (on the death of the composer Ockeghem), and Appenzeller’s Musae Jovis written on the death of Josquin himself.

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Anthony Pryer