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GRAMOPHONE (09/2022)
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Reviewer :
Edward Breen

Writing nearly 70 years ago, Gustave Reese described Jean Mouton (before 1459-1522) as ‘the most gifted of Josquin’s emulators’, and while that is in many senses true, this new recording from director and musicologist Stephen Rice is still a bit of a revelation. Mouton, like so many composers too easily categorised as Josquinian aftershocks, comes to life in the hands of The Brabant Ensemble and the results are eye-opening. Mouton’s music falls between Josquin’s style and Willaert’s later developments, and employs both late-medieval structures (motets with long graceful duets) and poignant use of varied polyphonic textures. On this album in particular, his smooth, melodious lines are presented as more impassioned than I had before realised and the singers bring real excitement to the full sonorities of the six-voice works in particular. Take the opening motet, Confitemini Domino (‘Proclaim the Lord’), with its ingenious canonic cantus firmus and flowing, freely composed sections. Mouton slowly builds fervent harmony until – with apologies for the plot-spoiler – the cadence on ‘in nomine Domini’ (‘in the name of the Lord’) tumbles through repeated phrases into a harmonically sensational close, and the singers slow up slightly to indulge a final blazing chord. Delicious.


The Missa Faulte d’argent quotes a tender and sonorous chanson and also shows a preference for fuller textures. The singing is extremely sure-footed, and I like the way Mouton’s careful setting of key moments is measured out, for example the touching duet on ‘Domine Fili unigenite’ into the full chords on ‘Qui tollis peccata mundi’. There is a lot of variety in this Mass and indeed in the selection throughout the programme. From the late-medieval feel of Gaude virgo Katherina to the imitative exuberance of Illuminare, illuminare, Jerusalem, Mouton delivers on many levels, and The Brabant Ensemble perform his works with verve and brilliance.

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