Josquin Des Pres

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Josquin Des Pres
LABELS: EMI Reflexe
WORKS: Motets; Chansons
PERFORMER: Taverner Consort & Choir/Andrew Parrott
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 7 54659 2 DDD
Josquin’s reputation was so great – he was described two centuries after his death as ‘a talent of whom fame speaks – and will speak for ever’ – that his music has seemed Olympian and remote. This disc reveals other facets, witty, worldly, enigmatic. Secular and sacred texts are wickedly juxtaposed; another text forms an acrostic on his name and a coded reference to his birthplace. There’s some fascinating number symbolism too – but you must read the accompanying booklet for yourself…

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Josquin’s transparent word-setting, often reducing the texture to pairs of duetting voices, is heightened by a solo ensemble singing the motets and chansons, tuning beautifully to each other. But the pitch centre wanders, so little that it would be quite imperceptible were it not hauled crudely back again, presumably at an editing break.

The colours are imaginatively varied: the harp plays three chansons, with some subtle balancing of the original vocal lines; then the Mass on the plainchant ‘Ave Maris stella’ is sung by the full Taverner Choir, a foil to the solo voices which open and close the disc.

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Warmly recommended as a vignette of the many sides to Josquin – just a pity that editing is so merciless to sustained vocal polyphony. George Pratt