The Tallis Scholars, directed by Peter Philips
These are the thirteenth and fourteenth Josquin Masses to be recorded by the Tallis Scholars and that experience certainly tells. These are marvellously confident performances with great clarity in the singing, picked up by the excellent recording made in Merton College Chapel, Oxford. There is a particularly strong sense of line which carries right through each phrase without faltering, so very important for this music, and great unanimity between the two/three singers on each line. These two four-voice Masses show a particularly striking contrast. L’Ami Boudichon is one of Josquin’s earliest masses, based on a very simple five-note bawdy song in C mode. Despite the restriction of the material, Josquin manages a continuous variety, with strong ostinato-based build-ups at the ends of movements and a strikingly optimistic mood. Composed some twenty years later, the more sombre Missa Gaudeamus shows the full panoply of Josquin’s contrapuntal devices, with lots of intricate canons. It is based on an extended plainsong in the minor-sounding Dorian mode, of which the easily-recognisable first six notes are most prominent; there is much more harmonic depth and complexity, with some beautifully-sung duets. The two Masses make an excellent pairing and this disc is certainly a very worthy addition to the group’s Josquin series. This is an essential recording of some sublime music.