COMPOSERS: Josquin Des Prez
LABELS: DG Archiv
PERFORMER: Orlando Consort
CATALOGUE NO: 463 473-2
Josquin des Prez (d1521) was the supreme master of late medieval music. Only recently, however, have scholars been able to disentangle his biography from those of other minor figures with similar names (see Composer of the Month in the November 1998 issue of BBCMusic Magazine). In fact, not all of the pieces attributed to Josquin on these two discs are certainly by him. But this does not matter: both recordings, in contrasting ways, present a wealth of splendid music.
The Obsidienne disc is extremely enjoyable but tends towards the ‘musical toyshop’ approach with tinkling instruments and percussion (in ‘Adieu mes amours’) and ‘folksong’ renderings of some of the chanson melodies. The ‘L’homme armé’ Mass is briskly but nicely done by a choir of 16 singers – but the confused bustle of voices in the Sanctus causes the music to dissolve from lack of direction (this perhaps accounts for the misprint ‘Josquib’ at the top of the contents list). By contrast the Orlando Consort, singing one-to-a-part, renders Josquin’s complex motets with precise tuning (very necessary in ‘Nymphes des boys’), a medieval French pronunciation of the Latin texts, and, above all, a terrific sense of the architecture of these pieces – especially in the massive ‘O virgo virginum’. Delicious. Anthony Pryer