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JOSQUIN des Prez (c. 1450-1521)
Adieu mes amours
Dulces Exuviae
rec. Notre-Dame de Centeilles, 2018
RICERCAR RIC403 [62:52]

Until now, I only have experienced the rich polyphonic choral music of Josquin des Prez. He was, after all, regarded as the first real master of the High Renaissance style of polyphonic vocal music,which began to appear during his lifetime. The most famous composer between Dufay and Palestrina, he was seen as the father of the Franco-Flemish school. This disc is a diversion – a collection of lute songs. They might well be familiar to some: they are polyphonic pieces stripped bare to one voice, with the other voices provided by the lute. This, so the booklet notes inform us, is not a new practice; it goes back to the composer’s time.

These pared-down versions emphasise the melodic element, sometimes lost in the polyphonic settings. The solo settings tend to sound quite intimate. For example, the opening track, a setting of the Ave Maria, becomes more like a love song. This feeling continues in the wonderful Regretz sans fin. Here the tale of wrongful and malicious accusations is filled with a real sense of sorrow. The baritone Romain Bockler expertly colours his voice to convey the anguish of the wronged one. A similar air of sorrow can be found in Fortuna desperata, whilst the concept of grief comes to the fore in Douleur me bat. Secular love can be found in La plus des plus and En l'ombre d'ung buissonnet. Here the artists nicely bring out the idea of the primacy of the melody. These tender and pleasing arrangements are so enjoyable that one does not miss the other voices.

The performers are outstanding as they portray varying emotions through their voices. Lutenist Bor Zuljan also plays six tiny improvised Praeambula. Although each lasts only around thirty seconds, they add to the feeling of the disc as a whole. The booklet notes, very good, are divided into the sections on the composer, on his music and how it is performed, and on the different lutes employed here. Zuljan explains the use of the ‘brae lute’ and how the frets add the buzzing effect of the strings. The recording is helped by the sympathetic acoustic, perfect for the music performed here.

Stuart Sillitoe


1 Ave Maria [3:26]
2 Praeambulum I (Improvisation) [0:32]
3 Attributed to Josquin: Mille regretz [2:29]
4 Luys de Narváez: Canción del Emperador [2:34]
5 Regretz sans fin [5:52]
6 La plus des plus [9:22]
7 Praeambulum II (Improvisation) [0:37]
8 Nimphes napées [2:50]
9 Antoine Busnois / Josquin: Fortuna desperata [3:54]
10 Praeambulum III (Improvisation) [0:35]
11 Adieu mes amours [2:16]
12 La Bernardina [1:24]
13 Josquin / Hans Gerle: En l'ombre d'ung buissonnet [3:59]
14 Praeambulum IV (Improvisation) [0:20]
15 Marco Dall’Aquila: Ricercar [1:40]
16 In te Domine speravi [2:39]
17 Praeambulum V (Improvisation) [0:35]
18 Douleur me bat [4:29]
19 Ile fantazies de Joskin [2:10]
20 Quant de vous seul [5:52]
21 Praeambulum VI (Improvisation) [0:27]
22 Nymphes des bois [4:38]

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