The Gesualdo Six/Owain Park (Hyperion)
Josquin Desprez: Nymphes des Bois; Illibata Dei virgo nutrix; Tu solus qui facis mirabilia; plus works by Ockeghem, Compère, A Brumel, Févin, J Mouton, Willaert, Isaac and Lhéritier
The Gesualdo Six/Owain Park
Hyperion CDA68379 66:07 mins
Produced in the afterglow of the 500th anniversary of Josquin’s death, this disc explores the composer’s legacy through a rosary of interconnected works, many associated with the Este court in Ferrara.
From the outset, performing with one voice to a part, the male-voice ensemble The Gesualdo Six brings the intimacy and detail of consort music to these accounts. Josquin’s Marian works ‘O virgo prudentissima’ and ‘Illibata Dei virgo nutrix’ sound aptly radiant, while there’s a sense of hushed reverence in ‘Tu solus qui facis mirabilia’, the singers floating quotations from Ockeghem’s chanson ‘D’ung aultre amer’ as if they were wistful memories. The centrepiece of the programme, ‘Nymphes des bois’ (Josquin’s plangent lament on the death of his friend and mentor Ockeghem), flows like balm – the tempo here less ponderous than many rival performances. Its text paints an image of mourners around Ockeghem’s tomb, among them Josquin’s contemporaries Compère, Brumel and La Rue – a poetic reference that leads to a sequence of works by each of these composers. The predominantly melancholy mood of the music is movingly underscored by the ensemble’s dark and plangent sound. Bringing the disc to an elegiac conclusion is Lhéritier’s sonorous setting of the psalm Miserere mei, Domine.
Throughout the programme, the singing is beautifully controlled (bar a slight quivering instability in the lower voices at a couple of points), and the ensemble is finely balanced. Hyperion’s close-recorded perspective gives the words a particular immediacy while the warm acoustic wraps the listener in a velvet shroud.