8 Nov 2020
The Tallis Scholars / Peter Phillips
Gimell CDGIM 051
This ends a hugely enjoyable project begun in 1986, not originally envisaged as a complete cycle of Josquin’s masses but which spawned consistently superb releases until completion became inevitable. This final disc is described by Philips as a ‘showcase for [Josquin’s] genius’ and presents a trio of early-middle works offering some exquisite textures. Who better to navigate such extraordinary music than the masters of tranquillity and clarity themselves, The Tallis Scholars, their exacting style delineates the distinctive sound-world of each mass whilst maintaining a consistent sonic beauty.
Missa Hercules Dux Ferrarie is based on eight notes derived from the vowels of the Duke’s name; as Phillips explains ‘Ercole I d’este of Ferrara, liked to hear his name often, loud and clear.’ The tenors shimmer brightly on this repeated tune whilst the superius (uppermost) line is gentle and understated. An enjoyable comparison can be made with The Hilliard Ensemble (EMI Reflexe 49960) whose strong countertenors draw more focus to the top of the texture. As ever, one greedily awaits the canonic passages in The Tallis Scholars’ performance since their glassy serenity lends itself to such textures. The six-voiced Agnus Dei is sublime.
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