Josquin Des Prez, Frye

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COMPOSERS: Frye,Josquin Des Prez
LABELS: ASV Gaudeamus
WORKS: Missa Faisant regretz; Motetti de passione (1503) (excerpts)
PERFORMER: The Clerks’ Group/Edward Wickham
CATALOGUE NO: CD GAU 302
Josquin’s Missa Faisant regretz is based on the second half of a chanson by the English composer Walter Frye. Its small-scale, delicately intricate manipulations of the original material make it a difficult work to project cleanly and cogently. There was a quirky, slightly unnerving version produced by a Russian choir in 1994 (on Pavane), but this recording by The Clerks’ Group – perfectly balanced and tuned – is streets ahead. It is also a demonstration of how the background knowledge of the performers feeds into the performance, since they are singing here from facsimiles of an original source (which had no bar-lines), and their lines flow and intermingle in an unusually free manner. Perhaps, though, the concentration got to them a little, since there is also a slight air of enclosed interiority to the expressive aspects of the piece.

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The motet performances demonstrate background attitudes in another way. These particular pieces used to be thought of as fledgling works from Milan, until it was discovered that Josquin had not been in Milan. Now they are sung as special demonstrations of the chordal style in their own right, very touchingly in ‘Domine non secundum’, and with confident, crystal-clear voices in ‘O Domine Jesu’. Anthony Pryer