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rec. December 20-21 2020, All Hallows, Gospel Oak, London HYPERION CDA68379 [66.17]
Having had the Josquin 500th anniversary, it’s now time to consider his legacy. It is also worth considering what he inherited from the previous generation, especially from Johannes Ockeghem who is generally considered to have been his teacher. A strong reciprocity between the generations is illustrated here.
This wonderful disc begins with a typical Ockeghem masterwork, the IntemerataDei Mater. Written in memory of Giles Binchois (d.1560), it is a mixture of homophony and dense polyphony. The work appears in a Ferrara manuscript - that will soon become even more significant. Therefore, Josquin’s Nymphes debois/Requiem aeternam in memory of Ockeghem comes as no surprise, following as it does in that tradition. The last section of that so-called chanson-motet including the names of four mourning composers (probably Ockeghem pupils) employs a sequential passage with falling thirds. This work, it has been suggested, was composed about 1503, when Josquin had arrived to work in Ferrara. Also, Josquin’s motet Tu solus qui facis mirabilia actually quotes two lines of a chanson by Ockeghem beginning ‘D’ung aultre amer, nobis esset fallacia’.
The famous and remarkable motet Absolon fili mi, now considered to be by Pierre de la Rue, also has a passage of falling thirds towards the end. This is performed in low clefs with the bottom bass note, I think, being an Eb. Interestingly, this work is now thought to precede Josquin’s Nymphes des bois.
Josquin’s famous ‘Mille Regretz’ is emulated by Tous les regretz by Antoine Brumel who was maestro di cappella at Ferrara in 1506, during the time of Duke Alfonso 1st. It is one of a series of ‘regretz’ chansons. For another example, Jean Mouton’s Qui ne regrettoit opens with “He who did not mourn the gentle Févin must surely be a rogue”. This follows on from Févin’s Nesciens Mater which uses a complex canon.
This brings us then to the use of canon. Josquin is a supreme master of that form, but then, so was Ockeghem, as for example in the Missa Prolationem, which is nothing but a series of mensuration canons. Josquin’s O virgo prudentissima “uses a double canon cantus firmus, using the chant ‘Beata mater et innupta virgo’, to quote Guy James’s excellent programme notes. Loyset Compère’s Quis numerare queat uses a chant, Da pacem, which appears as a canon, then provides a double cantus firmus. Compère also worked in Ferrara. In addition, the falling thirds motif appears in the highest voice towards the end.
Then there is Josquin’s use, or creation, of the acrostic as in the motet Illibata Dei virgo nutrix, where his full name makes up the first letter of the first twelve lines. This practice was to catch on later in the sixteenth century. This is a motet to the virgin as is Josquin’s O Virgo prudentissima and Févin’s setting of Nesciens mater.
Not to labour the point, one can turn to the last motet on the disc by another Ferrarese composer, the exquisite Miserere mei, Domine by Lhéritier, to a text also set by Josquin and with an alto and tenor voice echoing the canon you can also hear in Compère’s Quis numerare.
You can, I hope, see how brilliantly this CD is planned, with all of these works being interconnected by text, compositional technique, personal relationships or place. All texts are provided and the acoustic at Gospel Oak is clear and spacious. As is usual now with Hyperion, each verse is separately tracked, so the thirteen works are allotted thirty tracks.
Gary Higginson Contents Johannes OCKEGHEM (c.1410-1497) Intemerata Dei mater [6.54] JOSQUIN de PRES(c.1445-1521) Nymphes des bois/Requiem aeternam [4.10]; Illibata Dei Virgo nutrix [7.11]; Tu solus qui facis mirabilia [4.34] Antoine BRUMEL (c.1460-1512/3) Tous les regretz [2.02] Pierre de la RUE (c.1452-1518) Absalon fili mi [4.32] Loyset COMPÈRE (c.1445-1518) Quis numerare queat [6.05] Antoine de FÉVIN (c.1470-1511/12) Nesciens mater [4.15] Jean MOUTON (c.1459-1512) Qui ne regrettoit [1.34] Adrian WILLAERT (c.1490-1562) Infelix ego [8.11] Heinrich ISAAC (c.1450-1517) Esto mihi [3.37] Jean LHÉRITIER (c.1480- c.1551) Miserere mei, Domine [8.49]