Josquin Masses

Hercules Dux Ferrarie, D'ung aultre amer & Missa Faysant regretz

The Tallis Scholars / Peter Phillips

Gimell

This ends a hugely enjoyable project begun in 1986, not originally envisaged as a complete cycle of Josquin’s Masses but which spawned consistently superb releases until completion became inevitable. This final disc is described by Phillips as ‘a perfect showcase for [Josquin’s] genius’ and presents a trio of early-middle works offering some exquisite textures. Who better to navigate such extraordinary music than the masters of tranquillity and clarity themselves, The Tallis Scholars? Their exacting style delineates the distinctive sound world of each Mass while maintaining a consistent sonic beauty.

‘This glossily perfect performance pings with relish and crackles with energy. A superb end to a magnificent cycle of recordings’

Missa Hercules Dux Ferrarie is based on eight notes derived from the vowels of the Duke’s name. As Phillips explains: ‘Ercole I d’Este of Ferrara … liked to hear his name sung obviously and often.’ The tenors shimmer brightly on this repeated tune while the superius (uppermost) line is gentle and understated. An enjoyable comparison can be made with The Hilliard Ensemble (EMI/Erato, 5/90), whose strong countertenors draw more focus to the top of the texture. As ever, one greedily awaits the canonic passages in The Tallis Scholars’ performance since their glassy serenity lends itself to such textures. The six-voice Agnus Dei is sublime.

Missa D’ung aultre amer must be Josquin’s shortest Mass, mostly syllabic, with telescoped texts creating a concise texture brightened by an attractive wide upwards leap in the top voice borrowed from Ockeghem’s motet on which it is modelled. Knowing this older composer’s importance to Josquin, it’s a delight to hear his music infusing this final disc.

Missa Faysant regretz uses material drawn from an earlier rondeau by Frye or Binchois. Here the Agnus III is stunning: Josquin’s inventiveness in creating such a finely spun texture over a repeating tenor part is extraordinary. This glossily perfect performance pings with relish and crackles with energy. A superb end to a magnificent cycle of recordings. Edward Breen

Listen to the album on Apple Music

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