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Josquin: L'homme armé Masses
Josquin Desprez, Nicolas Robertson, Tallis Scholars
Josquin: L'homme armé Masses
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
 

      
   
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CD Details

All Artists: Josquin Desprez, Nicolas Robertson, Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips
Title: Josquin: L'homme armé Masses
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 1
Label: Gimell UK
Release Date: 9/11/2001
Album Type: Import, Original recording reissued
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
Styles: Opera & Classical Vocal, Historical Periods, Early Music
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 755138101920, 028945491929
 

CD Reviews

Exceptional music receiving just interpretation
Popescu Lucian | Bucharest, Romania | 06/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I've discovered Josquin quite recently and I am still bewildered. Hailed as greatest composer during his lifetime, his legacy was forgotten until the second half of 20th century, when he reappeared as the only realistic opponent to Bach's hold on greatest composer's title. Both of them have written only exceptionally good music, built upon unmatched mastery of counterpoint and deep understanding of words set on text. The technical and artistic challenges are in both cases very high. The music of Josquin can be meaningfully sung only by world's most accomplished assembles and even they have a certain reluctance for live interpretation. The primary reason is the rather impossible vocal range required for each part (superius, alto, tenor, basso).

In his particular recording, two different settings on a rather boring song are provided.

First of all, the song, a Crusaders' battle chanson of whom many Medieval and Renaissance composers have built missae settings. It is incredibly plain, repetitive and one is again bewildered how could Josquin build masterpieces with such second-rate theme.

Now the missae! Super voces musicales is written entirely in the old medieval tradition. It is so extremely difficult, practically no other group has attempted to tackle with it (only one, as far as I know). This provides testimony to Josquin singers? level of training. The music is utterly beautiful, in fact the most beautiful vocal music I've ever heard. Bach almost appears too modern by comparison. It is totally unlike Palestrina, it has only the strictest of counterpoint but in comparison to the latter, it is fuelled by a much greater inventiveness and power of variation. Observe how each movement keeps the main theme in sight, but never falls into repetition.

The second mass, Sexti toni, is written in typical Renaissance style. Because the transition from Medieval (Ars Nova) to Renaissance has been very gradual (even Ockeghem and Dufay had elements of Renaissance), the difference looks great only into musicologists' trained ears. For the general public, it is obvious both were done by the same hand. Vocally, Sexti toni is relatively easy, each voice type being used in its normal range. However, it is also artistically weaker compared to the former. Musicologists say the contrary, perhaps by the poor assumption a mature work is by default better than an earlier one. Age however is no more an indication of improvement as of senility.

For their exceptional performance of these ignored works, Tallis Scholars have only strengthened their title as world's leading Early music ensemble. Had their interpretation been poor, I would still hail their attempt to bring these works out of oblivion."
If This is What They Sing in Heaven...
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 03/23/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"...I might not mind going there, despite the company. Josquin's 'Missa L'homme Armé super voces musicales' is the kind of music that, when you're listening to it, you can't help thinking "nothing finer or more sublime has ever been written... not by Bach, not by Beethoven, not even by Monteverdi!" Admittedly, you may have the same thought while listening to other pieces, but my point is that this mass is a 'summit' experience. At least thirty-one L'Homme Armé masses have survived, by most of the greatest composers from Dufay to Palestrina, including Busnois, Obrecht, Brumel, Tinctoris, Mouton, Carver, Regis, da Silva, Morales, and Carissimi. Josquin's is the best. Punto! Even more cerebral and intricate than the one by Johannes Ockeghem, using every device of prolation and counterpoint, and yet serenely melodic and expressive! And then... Josquin wrote another! Missa L'homme Armé sexti toni, and both are recorded on this disk. "Sexti Toni" specifies a major tonality based on F, which makes this a triumphant-sounding, celebratory setting of the liturgy, more forthright than the meditative "super voces" mass. But then, another surprise! The "Agnus Dei" of L'homme armé sexti toni" is cerulean serenity, ethereal beauty, and the utmost mathematical intricacy, the loveliest eight minutes you'll ever live!

Music historians have struggled to account for the sheer number of L'Homme Armé masses that were composed. The 'song' is a quirky, jerky little melody with just one enigmatic verse of words, warning everyone to fear the "armed man" and to arm oneself with an haubregon of iron. Some musicologists have supposed that the song is a reference to the Crusades, particularly against the Turks. My own hypothesis is that the entire set of masses were commissioned by members of the aristocratic, international confraternity called The Order of the Golden Fleece. It's well established that L'homme armé was the anthem of the Order, which had convocations on a regular basis at which mass would certainly have been celebrated.

I've been known to criticize The Tallis Scholars for a certain kind of choral complacency, but their recordings of Josquin are their best work. The two masses here, recorded in 1989, are sung beautifully and insightfully. I can't imagine a finer performance.

This seems as good a place as any to list all the verified Josquin masses, with what I consider the best available recording of each:
L'ami Baudichon CAPELLA ALAMIRE
L'Homme Armé super voces TALLIS SCHOLARS
L'Homme Armé sexti toni TALLIS SCHOLARS
Ave Maris Stella DUFAY ENSEMBLE
De Beata Virgine THEATRE OF VOICES
Pange Lingua ENSEMBLE CLEMENT JANEQUIN
Fortuna Desperata TALLIS SCHOLARS or CLERKS' GROUP
Malheur me Bat TALLIS SCHOLARS or CLERKS' GROUP
Mater Patris CHANTICLEER
Hercules Dux Ferrariae HILLIARD ENSENBLE
La Sol Fa Re Mi TALLIS SCHOLARS
Sine Nomine TALLIS SCHOLARS
Ad Fugam TALLIS SCHOLARS
Gaudeamus A SEI VOCI
[Hurray! I can replace Sei Voci on this list! Missa gaudeamus is on a CD called Musica Symbolica, sung by De Labyrintho]
Di Dadi MEDIEVAL ENSEMBLE OF LONDON
Faysant Regretz CLERKS' GROUP or MEDIEVAL ENSEMBLE OF LONDON"