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Josquin des Prés Two Masses

Vol 5:
Missa De beata virgine
Missa Ave maris stella
Credo quarti toni Cambrai Credo

The Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips

Gimell CDGIM 044 [release date 31 October 2011]

Early Renaissance choral music may be a "niche" genre, but its CD sales are remarkable, even though the music may be found difficult and recondite by many music lovers who collect mainstream orchestral music. The weight of numbers can be daunting.

The Tallis Scholars have been performing Josquin des Prés (c.1440-1521) regularly for nearly 25 years, and this is their fifth CD in a projected Complete Josquin Mass cycle which will run to 9 discs...

Their artistic excellence and commercial nous have made Peter Phillips' group brand leaders, and we have reviewed them too infrequently.

The music is generally beautiful to hear, but under the surface complex. Missa De beata virgine, one of the most performed Mass in the entire Early Renaissance period, relies upon canons at the fifth, and is both long and musically challenging.

The other here, the four-part Missa Ave maris stella, is shorter and more generally accessible, with a piling on of canons (Peter Phillips cites in a nine bar passage a motif heard first as a duet, then as a trio, and finally "pell mell in all four voices"). Phillips uses mostly two voices to each part, and his trebles are women.

This is a perfectly made and annotated CD, one which will be self-recommending to afficionados, but well worth exploring by collectors who have few of the genre on their shelves.

Peter Grahame Woolf