Josquin Desprez (c.1440/3-1521)
Tant vous aime
Doulce Mémoire/Denis Raison Dadre
rec. 2021, Abbaye de Noirlac - Central culturel de rencontre
RICERCAR RIC436 
Even if we were awash with recordings of Josquin’s secular works - which we certainly are not - this disc would stand out as something different. The reason is highlighted in Denis Raison Dadre’s brief but fascinating essay on the texts.
It seems that several of the songs are based on folk melodies, some texts of which are incomplete or corrupt, so Dadre went back and discovered collections of these original melodies with their full texts and reconstructed or put them into a context. The opening track Si je perdoys mon ami begins with solo voice and harp singing the original melody to verse one in quite a free style and then, for the next verse, segues into Josquin’s setting very effectively. With Petite camusette we have the anonymous melody backed up instrumentally, followed by Ockeghem’s complex version where the melody is in the contra-tenor and bass, whilst the superius has the text and music for S'elle m’amera je ne scay. This is followed by Josquin’s arrangement of one of the verses. The CD’s title is that of the song Tant vous amie. Only one verse was known until Dadre searched through various poetry anthologies from the period and discovered three other verses. This was well worth doing, as it’s such a beautiful and, until now, unknown song.
The other more detailed booklet essay by the much-respected David Fallows provides much detail about Josquin’s life as we now understand it, but also draws our attention, as happens quite often nowadays, to probable misattributions. Pieces that we know and love, like In te, domine, speravi and Scaramella, may not be by him as they bear little resemblance technically or stylistically to his other compositions.
To what date can we assign Josquin’s songs? Recent research now suggests that in the 1470’s Josquin was working as a provost at the court of King René of Anjou and many of these French songs date to that time.
Josquin’s oft-used technique is canon, in which he excelled. A very good example is the last track, Une jeune fillette. Here, we are treated to the melody only for the first two verses sung by different voices, then we hear Josquin’s three-part version with the two singers in strict canon. This also throws open, however, the fact that only occasionally are we treated to a suitable characterisation. Surely when the girl in the song irritatingly shouts ‘be quiet, mother” we should have more than a soave tone quality. Bergerette savoysienne is also rather bland and uninvolving, whereas El Grillo and Scaramella come off more convincingly.
After 1480, when the king died, Louis XI moved his singers to Sainte Chapelle in Paris and it is assumed that Josquin went with them, perhaps then writing more sacred works. This recording, however, helps us to put the secular music a little in context. For example, Ockeghem’s oft-recorded Ma bouche rit is given and followed immediately by Josquin’s version with two added parts in canon and including a bass. We are also treated to bass dances by Attaingnant and Isaac and works by Paumann and Capirola, all more or less contemporary.
Throughout, instruments are used liberally and colourfully, sometimes playing alone as in À l’heure que je vous in which the outer parts are in canon at the ninth. Doulce mémoire consists of five voices and use also lute, harp, bass, tenor and alto bombards, and various recorders. The booklet tells us the provenance of each of them.
The recording is immediate and spacious and all texts are clearly given and well translated.
All pieces by Josquin unless otherwise stated
Si je perdoys mon amy/Par ung matin m’y levay
Vivrai je toujours en telle paine
Qui belles amours
À l’heure que je vous
Vincenzo Capirola (1474-1548) Ricercar ottava
Anon: Petite camusette
Johannes Ockeghem (1410-1497) S’elle m’amera/Petite camusette
Anon. Das Lochamer Lierderbuch: Mein herz in hohen frewden ist
Tant vous aime
Belle pour l’amour de vous
Conrad Paumann (1415-1473) An avois (Das Lochamer Liederbuch)
Que vous madame/In pace
Heinrich Isaac (1450-1517) Agnus dei from Missa la Spagna (instrumental)
In te, domine, speravi
Loyset Compere (1445-1518) Scaramella fa la galla
Scaramella va la Guerra
Pierre Attaingnant (1494-1552) Basse Dance
Johannes Ockeghem: Ma bouche rit
Ma bouche rit
À l’ombre d’ung buissonnet
Une jeune fillette (sur Comment peult avoir joye)