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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FAMOUS BELGIANS, 9 Feb 2004
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Josquin Desprez - Masses (Audio CD)
Josquin lived nearly a century before Palestrina and Lassus. He is thought to have spent some time in Italy and thus to have contributed to the Flemish influence on Italian polyphony, in which matter he was followed by Lassus himself. These two masses are widely separated by date, and is easy to discern a development in his style from the sectional structure of the Missa La sol fa re mi to the more continuous manner of the Missa Pange Lingua. The stylistic feature of antiphonal responses between the parts is one in which he was conspicuously followed by Lassus and much less by Palestrina, and may be a distinctively Flemish characteristic.
There are three works on this disc, and there is a separate style of recording for each. We are evidently dealing with a very clever recording consultant here. The plainsong Pange Lingua, one of the most marvellous of the plainchants, is given an echoing acoustic suggestive of the standard image of hooded monks as one might encounter that in, say, a Vincent Price film. I buy the effect wholeheartedly, except to say that it certainly does not recall to me the acoustic of the impressive but hardly monastic chapel of Merton College Oxford. Meretricious or not, the effect has at least one out-and-out admirer, and my pleasure was further enhanced on hearing the last two stanzas, the dreaded Tantum Ergo of so many excruciating Victorian settings, sung to its great original melody.
The Missa La sol fa re mi, (the notes A,G,F,D,E in modern parlance and cantance) seems to be regarded as a triumph here by commentators in general. Whether this short canto fermo originated in a parody of the phrase ‘Lascia faremi’ or ‘Be missing’, supposedly associated with some unknown but clearly important personage, is not established. The singing and mastery of style that we have come to associate with so many Oxford and Cambridge groups in recent years are here blessed with a recorded sound that is a masterpiece of clarity and natural resonance. Something changes for the Missa Pange Lingua. I cannot myself perceive here any unsuitable affinity with the style of Palestrina. The vocal line itself is most un-Palestrina-like, and the rendition has a slightly nervy alertness that would not suit Palestrina to my ears. What is conspicuously different is the recorded sound, this time more constricted and slightly more distant. If this was a misjudgment, it was at least a misjudgment in the right direction, as the style of this Mass is less ‘winning’ than that of the other, and more austere. I am reluctant to be judgmental about this, given the obvious virtuosity of the recording engineer. Whether I like the different effect or not, I can’t suspect it was unintentional.
A notable issue one way or the other, and heartily recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, and now re-issued, 11 May 2008
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Josquin Desprez - Masses (Audio CD)
I have little to add to the thorough and perceptive reviews here. This is an outstanding disc. You may like to know, though, that it is now issued as a part of a budget-price 2CD set: The Tallis Scholars Sing Josquin (Tallis Scholars Sing Josquin). The first disc is this one with the addition of two shorter but magnificent works by Josquin, and the second is their phenomenally good recording of Josquin's two masses based on L'homme Arme. It's a brilliant re-issue and outstanding value. Certainly if you're thinking of buying this disc (which I hope you are), buy the Tallis Scholars Sing Josquin instead and get all that extra wondeful music for no extra cost.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful music, 9 Jan 2006
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Josquin Desprez - Masses (Audio CD)
--Josquin des Prez--
Josquin des Prez was one of the greatest Dutch composers. Born about 1450, he worked through much of his career in church positions. A student of Johan Ockeghem, a Flemish contrapuntist, he developed this considerably during his career. A singer in papal choirs under two popes, Josquin also spent time in Florence and Burgundy. One of his star pupils wrote a book of music methodology in which Josquin is described as 'princeps musicorum'. Josquin's contrapuntal style differs from straight polyphony in points of emphasis, but were universally admired in his time, and continue to be used in churches to this day. Josquin died in 1521.
--Plainchant--
Plainchant is basically another word for chant of Gregorian or other styles, being monophonic and in free rhythm. The particular piece here, Pange lingua, was originally a hymn for the feast of Corpus Christi. The first track on this CD presents the plainchant version without embellishment; perhaps as one would have originally heard it in a medieval monastery.
--Missa Pange lingua--
This mass, set for four voices, was possibly Josquin's last mass setting of his long career. Likely dating as late as 1520 (it wasn't published until 1539), it is a mature piece, no longer chasing after musical puzzles to be solved, but rather free and flowing in form. Gustave Reese (quoted in the liner notes) describes it as a 'fantasy on a plainsong.' Soprano is highly used in this mass.
--Missa La sol fa re mi--
This mass is an earlier one, published in 1502, and sets the task of setting a mass based on medieval scales (think here 'Sound of Music' and the do-re-mi) - the pattern of five notes, A-G-F-D-E is evident throughout the parts of the mass, particularly in the tenor. This is a technical and sophisticated masterpiece.
All of these pieces are wonderfully performed, and taken together, they make a wonderful snapshot of Roman Catholic/high Anglican sensibility from the time of triumphant church, just before the Reformation (but still influencing high-church worship and music to this day). They also serve to show a wonderful history of development from the simple to the complex, and the virtues of the music at both stages.
--Liner Notes--
Being internationally acclaimed, the Tallis Scholars' CDs typically present their commentary and texts in English, French, German and Italian; that is true of this disc, which unfortunately does not contain the text of the mass or the plainchant Pange lingua. The cover art also typically represents visual arts contemporary with the compositions - here it is The Deposition, painted circa 1510 - 1515, a piece by Gerard David, who was an historical contemporary of Josquin des Prez. One drawback is that there is little information on the Tallis Scholars or Peter Phillips in the booklet.
--The Tallis Scholars--
The Tallis Scholars, a favourite group of mine since the first time I heard them decades ago, are a group dedicated to the performance and preservation of the best of this type of music. A choral group of exceptional ability, I have been privileged to see them many times in public, and at almost every performance, their singing seems almost like a spiritual epiphany for me, one that defies explanation in words. Directed by Peter Phillips, the group consists of a small number of male and female singers who have trained themselves well to their task.
Their recordings are of a consistent quality that deserve more than five stars; this particular disc of pieces of plainchant and Josquin des Prez deserves a place of honour in the collection of anyone who loves choral music, liturgical music or Gregorian chant, classical music generally, or religious music. This particular recording was made at Merton College, Oxford, in 1986.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Masses from the greatest Flemish Master, 23 Nov 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Josquin Desprez - Masses (Audio CD)
This excellent recording performed by The Tallis Scholars was the first Early Music Recording to win the prestigious Gramophone Record of the Year in 1987.
Mystic, atmospheric and ravishingly performed by the best Renaissance ensemble, this is a must for everyone interested in Choral music.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Present for wife, she's deighted, so am I !, 4 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Josquin Desprez - Masses (Audio CD)
I bought this CD because my wife wanted it. She was delighted with this surprise present which was well-earned. Great.
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