Richafort: Requiem in Memoriam Josquin des Prez

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Richafort
LABELS: Signum
ALBUM TITLE: Richafort: Requiem in Memoriam Josquin des Prez
WORKS: Requiem in Memoriam Josquin des Prez & other works
PERFORMER: The King’s Singers
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD326

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Recordings of Franco-Flemish composer Jean Richafort’s Requiem are, it seems, rather like London buses: you wait years for one, and then three come along at once. The King’s Singers face stiff competition from The Huelgas Ensemble (whose 2002 recording has just been re-issued at budget price) and, particularly, from the haunting account by Cinquecento (reviewed in these pages back in December 2012). 

Written in memory of Josquin des Prez, Richafort’s Requiem, with its fluid, spiralling lines and sonorous polyphony, is one of the masterpieces of Renaissance vocal music. Under the informed scholarly guidance of David Skinner, this performance is characterised by the King’s Singers celebrated clarity of sound, immaculate intonation and ensemble. With just six male voices, one to a part, they create a glorious resonance – the effect is nothing short of ethereal and other‑worldly. The King’s Singers tempos are fleeter and the timbre is brighter than that of Cinquecento, who really plumb the depths of this sepulchral score.

The Requiem forms the centrepiece of a fine collection of musical tributes to Josquin by his pupils and colleagues, all of which produce a reflective intensity. One of the most striking works – performed here from a new edition – is by the French Renaissance composer Jacquet of Mantua: his motet Dum vastos Adriae fluctus entwines five of Josquin’s melodies into a lustrous tapestry. In short, this is music of high seriousness heard in performances of the highest order.

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Kate Bolton