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Notes and Editorial Reviews
This release presents music associated with the Renaissance master Josquin Des Prez, a composer who towers above all others in the first part of the sixteenth century. Numerous works were attributed to him that have now been proven to be by his contemporaries and successors, including the central work on this recording, Jean Richafort’s expansive and beautiful Requiem. It is performed with affecting clarity by the all-male vocal group Cinquecento, whose many previous discs of Renaissance repertoire for Hyperion have garnered the highest critical praise.
Booklet notes by Stephen Rice, an acknowledged authority on this repertoire, place the music in its historical context and unpick the mysteries of its composition.
R E V I E W:
Sublime inspiration from start to finish.
A REQUIEM FOR JOSQUIN
HYPERION 67959 (70:00
Text and Translation)
JOSQUIN DES PREZ
Nymphes, nappés/Circumdederunt me. Faulte d’argent. Nymphes des bois. Miserere mei.
O mors inevitabilis
The seventh issue by the Viennese ensemble Cinquecento belongs to an earlier era than the mid 15th-century period that has provided most of their repertoire. As the title makes clear, most of the music commemorates the death of Josquin des Prez. Josquin’s own works are chosen to fit the theme,
both being quoted in Jean Richafort’s Requiem for six voices on the death of Josquin.
Nymphes des bois
is Josquin’s own lament on the death of Ockeghem, and
for the Holy Week services, one of his finest motets, fits the mood. The remaining pieces by Benedictus Appenzeller, Hieronymus Vinders, and Nicolas Gombert were laments on the death of Josquin, printed in 1545 in a volume of music attributed to Josquin.
Paul van Nevel has recorded Richafort’s Requiem (
26:3) using a larger ensemble in a more reverberant space. Van Nevel’s issue is still the most impressive representation of the obscure composer ever made (what little is known of him is summarized in the earlier review). It should be noted that Dutch surnames include the “van,” unlike the “von” in German names, as one of our Dutch readers pointed out in the Letters column many years ago. This lighter, slightly faster rendition has its own appeal, even apart from the exquisite performance that is typical of everything this ensemble does. It is useful, too, to hear the two Josquin pieces that are quoted in the Requiem.
The Vinders motet has been recorded by Konrad Ruhland (with the Appenzeller), Bruno Turner (with the Gombert), Jeremy Summerly, Philip Thorby, and Emmanuel Bonnardot. Other recordings of the Gombert motet have come from Bo Holten, Guy Janssens, the Hilliard Ensemble (29:5), Meinolf Brüser, and Jeremy Summerly (29:5). The Appenzeller was also done by the Ensemble Clément Janequin.
The male ensemble, one to a part, continues a notable string of successes, furnishing exquisite performances of programs carefully assembled around a theme or a composer. This level of quality devoted to a miscellaneous collection of unrelated works would not have the same impact. The ensemble certainly gains cohesion by singing Mass weekly at a Viennese church. Even if you have Van Nevel’s Richafort disc, which retains its significance, you should hear this version, too. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber
Highly impressed by everything vocal ensemble Cinquecento has done on the Hyperion label, including their marvellous disc of Jacob Regnart, I pounced on this title,
A Requiem for Josquin with indecent alacrity.
The association with Renaissance master Josquin Des Prez is the legacy of a fame which meant that numerous works by his contemporaries were falsely attributed to him, and this includes the main work in this programme, Jean Richafort’s marvellous
Requiem. Richafort was reportedly one of Josquin’s pupils, but this is now thought to be more like the artistic term of ‘in the school of’ rather than his having been an actual student. Richafort did use material by Josquin in other works so the connection is not an idle one, but the
Missa pro defunctis is full of new compositional elements and combinations of various genres which put the work, one of the most extended of its type for the period, into a class of its own. Preceded by two authentic and suitably mournful works by Josquin, the scale of the
Requiem is felt from the outset, with broad lines and a sense of spaciousness which promises and delivers a timeless span from which to draw meditations of mortality.
Texts and translations are given for all of the pieces here. Stephen Rice’s authoritative booklet notes are a valuable resource when it comes to placing the music in its historical context and delving further into the complexities of its creation, but the expressive warmth and sonority of Cinquecento’s voices, superbly recorded, are the source to which you will want to return for more and more. Superbly unified, the dynamic shading which brings forth leading voice lines and gently points to significant harmonic shifts are done so naturally that the music seems to enter your soul though some kind of osmosis rather than something so banal as mere listening.
The programme has been imaginatively put together, framing the
Requiem with pieces by Josquin himself as a kind of reference, the most substantial of these being the sublime
Miserere mei, Deus. Like knowledge and respect for nature, we seem to have lost the art of being able to make such things for ourselves these days, though such a performance makes you want to grab some manuscript paper and try. Nicholas Gombert is a name we’ve come across before, and the
Musae Jovis is another marvel with some stunning harmonic twists. You can be excused for not having heard of Jheronimus Vinders, who can apparently only be traced as being briefly employed in Ghent from 1525-6. His seven part
O mors inevitabilis is a fittingly expansive conclusion to this superb set of laments.
Anyone already in the know about Cinquecento will already have their favourite chair and slippers reserved for an evening with this CD, and a movingly inspiring time will be had by all of these lucky people. For the yet uninitiated this is as good a place to start, and with the juice of Josquin running through from start to finish you can hardly go wrong. If you buy no other music from the 16
th century this year, this will at least keep your speakers warm all winter.
-- Dominy Clements , MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Nymphes, nappés by Josquin Des Préz
Miserere mei, Deus by Josquin Des Préz
Faulte d'argent by Josquin Des Préz
Musae Jovis by Benedictus Appenzeller
Written: 16th Century; Flanders, Belgium
Musae Jovis by Nicolas Gombert
Written: 16th Century; Flanders, Belgium
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Early music at its best January 15, 2013
By elizabeth a. (Gainesville, FL) See All My Reviews
"Absolutely gorgeous singing. Usually music of this period becomes tedious to me but this CD is both soothing and exciting; an oxymoron I know but true nontheless."