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The Tallis Scholars are invariably excellent (I have loved their recordings for over thirty years now), but every so often they release a disc which is truly exceptional even by their own stellar standards. This is one of them. Mouton's music is rich, distinctive and astonishingly beautiful, featuring a serenity and sweetness of tone seldom matched in Renaissance polyphony but never becomes bland or monotonous because Mouton varies his mood and effects so cleverly that there is always variety and something new to keep the ear interested and - for me, anyway - often spellbound.

The mass setting here is really excellent, with Mouton's ingenious use of Compere's chanson Dittez moy as a basis binding it together beautifully and keeping even the long movements fresh and interesting throughout. The motets are also terrific, with the amazing setting of Ave maria...virgo serena showing hints that Mouton occasionally came close to Josquin's genius in composition.

The disc ends with Mouton's only well-known work, the fabulously beautiful Nesciens mater. I already have three dearly-loved versions but this may well be my favourite. Sung one to a part, it has a spare clarity which allows it to really shine. As Dorothy L. Sayers said of Dante's Divine Comedy, it has a lasting beauty being built on noble bones and here the Tallis Scholars allow that innate beauty to shine. This is true throughout the disc, which has a deeper, more resonant sound than some Tallis Scholars recordings. The top lines in the mass and two of the motets are taken by the altos, and Donald Greig, a stalwart bass of the ensemble, here sings the baritone part which gives an idea of the often lower pitch. This fits the music perfectly and with the Tallis Scholars' characteristic impeccable technique and deep engagement with the music the whole thing is quite exceptionally beautiful and involving.

The recorded sound (in the lovely acoustic of Merton College Chapel, Oxford) is outstanding and the notes full, readable and interesting. This is an absolutely terrific disc all round and on a par with their Browne, de Rore and Victoria recordings which are among my most treasured discs. Recommended in the warmest possible terms.
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How strange are the ways of the recording companies - but perhaps understandably, as I'll explain in a moment. Jean Mouton was one of the great composers of the Franco-Flemish school, yet there had not been a recording exclusively devoted to his music for at least ten years, and even before that only one as far as I know. And now two come along within a few months of one another - the Brabant Ensemble's wonderful CD of Mouton: Missa Tu Es Petrus (Hyperion: CDA67933) and this present disc from the Tallis Scholars.

This consists of Mouton's fine paraphrase mass based on Loyset Compère's rondeau "Dictes moy toutes voz pensées", together with an impressive collection of five motets. Compère's gently plaintive 3-part song, the opening item on the disc, makes an intriguing model for the Mass. The latter boasts a rich texture from the very start, with the lower voices sounding especially prominent here and at various other points. Throughout the work, Mouton shows seemingly boundless imagination and ingenuity in reworking the motifs of Compère's song, just as is the case with his treatment of the cantus firmus theme in the Missa Tu es Petrus. All this is performed most beautifully by Peter Phillips and the Tallis Scholars - who have been slimming down a bit in recent years, singing two voices per part for most of the works here, and OVPP for the last item, the 8-voice "Nesciens Mater". Their singing has a lovely, well-balanced texture - as at the start of the Sanctus, to take just one example - while the middle section of Mouton's Agnus Dei, again dominated by the low voices, is remarkable and, once more, quite beautifully sung here. In mentioning the lower voices a couple of times I don't mean to underplay the others - the sopranos and altos make superb contributions, resulting in a marvellously balanced sound.

As for the rest of the programme, it's this that prompts me to think how strange also are the vagaries of individual taste - which is why we can't always blame the recording companies for not knowing what we'll want to buy. In the case of the Brabant Ensemble's Mouton recording it was above all the Mass that really bowled me over, whereas some other reviewers (on Amazon or elsewhere) were more lukewarm. For the present disc, E.L. Wisty praises the "Missa Dictes moy" highly in his excellent review whereas, for my taste, it's the motets that really got me going on this occasion. To mention only a few highlights, Mouton's lament for Anne of Brittany, "Quis dabit oculis?", brings us marvellously mournful chords at the name 'Anna', again expressed with a lovely vocal texture. "Salva nos" is short but glorious - two and a half minutes of sheer delight. In "Ave Maria ... virgo serena", Mouton seems to be taking a leaf from Josquin's book in the latter's setting of the same title but a different text; a similar alternation of polyphony with the occasional declamatory passage results in a very substantial work that's not so far off the sheer perfection of 'Josquinus incomparabilis'. And finally we have "Nesciens mater", familiar to all renaissance fans, in a very fine rendering in which each individual voice can be clearly followed - bringing the programme to a magical close.

Whatever the finer points of our preferences, however, this disc makes an excellent companion to the Brabants' Missa Tu es Petrus - and, I hope, to any future undertakings of the many fine renaissance ensembles out there who may fancy bringing us another Mass or two from Mouton's impressive output. Actually, Mouton's "Missa Dictes moy" has been recorded before, with a mostly different group of motets, by The Gentlemen of St John's directed by Graham Walker: Mouton - Choral Works. That, too, is a fine recording, very hard to get hold of these days but well worth the effort. In the meantime, well done to both the Tallis Scholars and the Brabant Ensemble; and again, record companies, please can we have some more?
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Though regarded by his contemporaries as equal to Josquin, we have been poorly served when it comes to recordings of Jean Mouton, who has been rather neglected. Two have come along in fairly quick succession however. But how could he have been thus virtually ignored for so long?

Stephen Rice in his notes to the recent Mouton: Missa Tu Es Petrus by his Brabant Ensemble described Mouton as being "in the best sense, egregious". Peter Phillips in his notes to this new release by The Tallis Scholars remarks that it was Mouton's apparent distinctiveness, particularly his scoring for the Agnus Dei II in the Missa "Dictes moy toutes voz pensées", which is the centrepiece of the disc, for just three bass voices, which attracted him to recording some of his work. Phillips characterises Mouton as a composer having the mathematical brain of Ockeghem for complexity of construction yet being able to deliver clear melodic lines. In the buzzword of the 21st century he would probably be thus described as being "accessible".

The Missa is based on a chanson of the same name by Loyset Compère for three parts, and which precedes the mass on this set; it's a quite charming little ditty in itself. All three melodies are freely re-used by Mouton in the quite superb mass. There follow five motets, including "Quis dabit oculis", a lament on the death of Anne of Brittany (in passing changing the subject slightly I might note two requiems believed to have been composed and performed for her, on Anthonius Divitis; Antoine de Févin: Lux Perpetua; Requiem and Prioris: Requiem; Missa super 'Allez Regrets') and the eight part canonic piece for two four part choirs "Nesciens mater", perhaps the only work by Mouton which has received a great deal of attention until recently (and also the only overlap between this disc and the aforementioned one by the Brabants).

The arrangement is relatively low for some of these pieces compared to the Tallises' usual practice. The mass is mostly ATBarBx2, "Quis dabit" and the first "Ave Maria" ATTBx2, "Salva nos" SATTBarBx2, the second "Ave maria" SATTBx2 and "Nesciens mater" SSAT+TTBarB. Whilst this is very pleasing in itself to someone who like me tends to find the Tallises a little top-heavy with the sopranos, there's more than simply that to have delighted me. The sound seems fuller, richer, more rounded, more balanced, and the performance almost in a sense freer, unchained and unfettered compared to earlier recordings. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that this is The Tallis Scholars' best recording yet.
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on 19 October 2014
There are some extremely enthusiastic and erudite reviews abour this CD and I can only say I agree completely. I would just like to add a few points to explain why I consider this an exceptional recording.

The serenity and tranquillity expressed in the music are second to none in the rich tapestry of Renaisssance composition. In short a unique musical language.

The clarity between the voices is exceptional. You can hear very clearly how they reply to each other and interact how Mouton weaves his intricate web of lovely polyphony.

The singing is outstanding putting this CD on a par with my favourite Tallis scholar recordings "The Flemish Masters" and that wonderful triple CD "The Victoria Collection".

The highlights are numerous. Some of my personal preferences.

The Sanctus & Benedictus and Agnus Dei. The calmness and tranquillity of the music is ideally suited to the more contemplative parts of the mass. Quis dabit oculis with the heartfelt lament "Anna Anna", the exquisite "Ave Maria ....virgo serena" and the last track "Nesciens mater" with the wonderful double choir effect.

I challenge anyone not to be moved by the beauty of this music.
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In the booklet accompanying this CD Peter Phillips states that Jean Mouton has 'a musical language quite distinct from everyone else.' And what a language it is! The music in this recording has to rank with the greatest music ever written. What else can one say? Listening to it is sheer joy and I'm delighted that I decided to buy this disc.

I liked the picture of the ewe and lamb on the cover. Presumably these are meant to represent a play on Mouton's name: John Sheep. Anyway, it adds an attractive touch. This recording by the Tallis Scholars directed by Peter Phillips is superb. I thoroughly recommend it.
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on 3 March 2013
A Great recording dispatched promptly and well packaged, a good addition to the collection of any serious classical music fan.
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on 28 December 2012
I have always like the Tallis Scholars. This work I found rather funereal and depressing. It could be good mood music under particular circumstances.
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