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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag, 9 Feb 2011
By 
E. L. Wisty "World Domination League" (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Josquin Desprez - Masses (Audio CD)
The individual discs of Josquin by A Sei Voci seem to have received mixed reviews, when they have been reviewed at all. Getting this boxed set of six was possibly a bit of a gamble, but I snapped it up when I found it available at such an amount that even if only half were any good it would not have been a great loss. Going through the discs in the order as packaged (for each one I have provided a link to a listing for the disc as sold individually):

1. Missa Pange Lingua & Motets - Rating 3/5
In the Missa, the core ensemble of A Sei Voci, here consisting of nine male voices, are accompanied and slightly overwhelmed in terms of balance in the vocal range by a largely female youth choir from the Maîtrise des Pays de Loire, who are to be honest slightly wishy-washy and languid in comparison. It doesn't really capture the liveliness of Josquin to be found in many other recordings (for Pange Lingua specifically, see for example Missa Pange lingua - Ensemble Clément Janequin / Ensemble Organum and Tallis Scholars Sing Josquin), and almost seems to be harking back to the medieval world a little rather than embracing the musical creativeness of the Renaissance. The best parts of this disc are in the motets "Qui velatus facie fuisti" and "O Domine Jesu Christe", where A Sei Voci are allowed to do their own thing without and rescue the disc a little.

The booklet contains lyrics with translations and notes in French and English.

2. Missa de Beate Virgine & Motets - Rating 4/5

After the letdown of Missa Pange Lingua this disc is a massive improvement. Having foregone the services of a youth choir, the core six voices are expanded to eleven with a good balance over the vocal range. The mass is enjoyable in itself, but then just listen to the collection of motets. The motet "O virgo prudentissima" is the highlight of the disc, and probably just about as good as any individual rendition of any piece by Josquin I have heard.

The accompanying booklet contains lyrics with translations and notes in French, English and Spanish.

3. Messa Ave Maris Stella & Motets - Rating 4/5

Here the core ensemble "A Sei Voci" remains relatively minimal with eight personnel, an evenly balanced SATB with two voices per part. It results in a tighter, more disciplined sound than I have heard in their other discs I have experienced thus far.

The mass itself is followed by a number of motets, firstly "Ave Maris Stella" around which the mass itself was based, originally by Guillaume Dufay with additions by Josquin, and it's a beautiful piece indeed; this is followed by "Salve Regina", "Gaude Virgo Mater Christi" and "Alma Redemptoris Mater/Ave Regina Coelorum". It finishes up with the fabulous "Vultum tuum deprecabuntur" cycle (although the Orlando Consort do an even better job).

The booklet contains lyrics plus translations and notes in French, English and Spanish.

4. Missa Gaudeamus - Rating 3/5

The core ensemble of A Sei Voci, here reduced to five male voices, are accompanied by a largely female youth choir from the Maîtrise des Pays de Loire. They combine somewhat better in my opinion than on the Missa Pange Lingua where the greater blandness of the larger choir overwhelmed the core ensemble, but still doesn't hit the spot for me. The motets are a bit better, the accompaniment being smaller, but overall it doesn't really capture the liveliness of Josquin to be found in many other recordings, and almost seems to be harking back to the medieval world a little rather than embracing the musical creativeness of the Renaissance.

The booklet contains lyrics with translations and notes in French, English and Spanish.

5. Missa Hercules Dux Ferrariae - Rating 3/5
The core ensemble of A Sei Voci, here reduced to a mere five male voices, are accompanied by the choir from the Maîtrise Notre-Dame de Paris. They combine better than the Maîtrise des Pays de Loire used on other discs, but again the choir is really too large, an approach to Josquin's music which is not really to my personal taste. The instrumental accompaniment by Les Saqueboutiers de Toulouse and Ensemble Labyrinthes is relatively inoffensive but doesn't really do a lot for me.

The main reason to dislike this disc really is the "Miserere mei Deus", here rushed through at an unbelievable pace in under 13 minutes rather than the 17 or 18 minutes I have heard elsewhere (e.g. De Labyrintho and Dufay Ensemble). They really were desperate to get down the pub. An ineffable massacre indeed.

The booklet contains lyrics with translations and notes in French, English and Spanish.

6. Missa L'Homme Armé - Rating 4/5

Unlike their other collaborations, director Bernard Fabre-Garrus has here begun to get the balance right, with the core ensemble of A Sei Voci now consisting of twelve members, an evenly balanced ATBarB x 3, and the accompanying choir from the Maîtrise des Pays de Loire comprising nine voices; they are not therefore overwhelming the male voices of ASV like on other discs, and their performance is more solid and assured.

It's a decent enough recording but having said that I'm still not a huge fan of the massed voices approach to Josquin. Overall I much prefer the L'Homme Armé masses recorded by the Tallis Scholars.

The booklet contains lyrics with translations and notes in French & English.

Overall average rating for the six discs therefore 3.5/5.
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Josquin Desprez - Masses
Josquin Desprez - Masses by Josquin Desprez (Audio CD - 2008)
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