Customer Review

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strangeness and beauty, 11 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Mouton: Dictes Moy Toutes Pensees (The Tallis Scholars/ Peter Phillips) (Gimell: CDGIM047) (Audio CD)
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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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 Jun 2013 17:38:22 BDT
Sarah D says:
Too long. A short objective critique would have been more helpful than an opinionated lecture.

Posted on 19 Jun 2013 08:16:58 BDT
Last edited by the author on 24 Aug 2013 12:11:48 BDT
Long, Monsieur le Francophile? C'est peu de le dire! You should have seen the one I posted the other day: Musik in alten Städten & Residenzen

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Dec 2013 11:24:28 GMT
O. Rydland says:
Please continue your long reviews. The ultimate short review consists of stars only, and is not very helpful.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Dec 2013 11:51:49 GMT
Many thanks, OR. I'll bear that in mind!
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Stephen Midgley
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: Tarbrax, West Calder, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 288