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GRAMOPHONE (11/2021)
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Reviewer: Fabrice Fitch

This is an inventive piece of programming, combining the very well known and the nearly obscure: aside from Ockeghem’s Intemerata Dei mater and Brumel’s Tous les regretz, the pieces not by Josquin have seldom been recorded. But these lesserknown pieces earn their place in spades: Mouton’s lament for Févin is a gem, so too

the piece by Févin himself; and Willaert’s setting of Infelix ego deserves to be heard alongside the more famous ones by Byrd and Lassus. Apart from the skill involved in assembling such a discriminating selection, it’s a clever way of introducing listeners to music that might otherwise pass them by. Whether the programme quite delivers what the title promises is a moot point (pace the booklet note’s attempt to connect each piece to Josquin); but had it been issued under a different title, in a year other than 2021, it would still be superb The same goes for The Gesualdo Six’s singing. The decision to take the Ockeghem at an uncharacteristically high pitch is bold, and with a very bright countertenor on the top line the effect is luminous and transparent (dare I say magical?), very different to the chewy, ruminative approach that the piece’s text usually elicits. For this alone I’d recommend the disc unreservedly, but this starts as the ensemble means to go. Theirs is a very English sound, eschewing overtly dramatic interpretative touches, but the sensitivity to contrapuntal details is none the less striking. There’d be something to cite in virtually every piece but I’ll focus on just three: the tricky corners in Tous les regretz are beautifully coordinated; the concluding passage of the Willaert sets the words ‘Miserere mei, Deus’, a not quite exact but obviously intentional quotation of Josquin’s setting of that psalm – a wonderful moment that is beautifully stage-managed; finally, the performance of Absalon fili mi is simply jaw-dropping: beautifully controlled and restrained but intensely moving. The upper voice is taken by a high tenor, so that the bass goes down to low C (he might almost be Flemish, and for basses there’s no greater compliment). I have great affection for The Hilliard Ensemble’s recording (Virgin/Erato, 3/84) but this, I think, is better still. Ironically, the only slips occur in two pieces by Josquin: there’s a misreading in the final descending lick in Nymphes des bois and the concluding passage of Illibata (otherwise very nicely done) ought to be much faster, I think. But as a single-disc introduction to the motet of Josquin’s time, this is hard to beat.

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