Josquin Desprez ‘Baisiez Moy’
Thélème / Jean-Christophe Groffe
Every so often a disc comes along which treads a fine line between visionary and baffling and, take it from me, this is an unmissable example. Much of this album demonstrates a cool mastery of conservative performance: several lesser-known chansons are performed from the best editions with a gripping focus on the text. There's a characterful performance of Fama malum, about the spread of evil rumours, and a truly beautiful La Bernardina from lutenists Ivo Haun and Ziv Braha. But my ear was caught by Julien Freymuth, a bright countertenor who spins phrases of fine filigree in Bergerette savoisienne when duetting with the ondes Martenot.
Yes, that's right, an ondes Martenot in Josquin; and elsewhere a Buchler synthesiser and a Fender Rhodes too. Exploring Josquin’s popularity through a Jacques Brelle-meets-Messiaen filter, Thélème present a masterclass in early music arrangement starting from [cue respectful sotto voce] historically informed performance, and quickly blasting beyond its catchment area into another realm altogether – possibly a good way beyond the taste level you might have been expecting – but via an exhilarating trajectory. The aim is to align Josquin with some famous 20th century melancholy and this is achieved with such imaginative conviction that I felt their Mille regretz is best heard walking ruefully through wet Parisian streets at 3am with a Gauloise hanging from my lower lip. Regretz? I've had a few.
Seriously though, Josquin is both venerated in faithful reproduction and honoured by inspiration. The whole album is superb.