Josquin DES PREZ (c.1450/55-1521)
Nymphes, nappés / Circumdederunt me [2:44]
Faulte d’argent [3:08]
Jean RICHAFORT (c.1480-after 1547)
Missa pro defunctis ‘Requiem’ [31:32]
Josquin DES PREZ
Nymphes des bois / Requiem aeternam [3:45]
Benedictus APPENZELLER (c.1480/88-after 1558)
Musae Jovis [5: 46]
Josquin DES PREZ
Miserere mei, Deus [15:01]
Nicolas GOMBERT (c.1495-c.1560)
Musae Jovis [5:17]
Jheronimus VINDERS (fl.1525-1526)
O mors inevitabilis [2:40]
rec. 30 July - 1 August 2010, Kloster Pernegg, Waldvìertel, Austria
HYPERION CDA67959 [70:00]
Highly impressed by everything vocal ensemble Cinquecento has done on the Hyperion label, including their marvellous disc of Jacob Regnart (see review), 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 16th century this year, this will at least keep your speakers warm all winter.
Dominy Clements 
Sublime inspiration from start to finish.