Dufay Ensemble

Josquin Desprez

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Of the six motets on this Josquin collection, only the Déploration sur le mort de Johannes Ockeghem and perhaps the final five-voice Miserere mei deus are numbered among the Josquin "hits." As a group the pieces are large, fairly complicated, and lacking the sort of instantly graspable marriage of polyphony and text that dazzles listeners coming to Josquin's music. This makes the album all the more desirable for listeners who like Josquin and want to get more deeply into his style. CD buyers will be aided by an excellent booklet essay by Eckehard Kiem (it's given in German, English, and French, but the Latin motet text translations lack the French), laying out the stylistic issues involved in each of these pieces. Josquin was an innovator in one sense: he posited the close relationship between text and music that remains a fixture of Western vocal music to this day. The Stabat mater (tracks 1-2) is innovative in a different way: this was the first polyphonic setting of the medieval poem depicting Mary weeping at the cross. But in other ways Josquin was more like Bach: he exploited existing styles in fundamental, exhaustive ways. Being alert to how these factors interact -- in multisectional works like these often within the same piece -- is the key to a deeper understanding of Josquin. The Dufay Ensemble, a veteran German group, offers an all-male combination of altus, haute-contre (countertenor), tenor, baritone, and bass; with all adult singers, this results in a rich, lyrical sound that the performers manage to keep remarkably clear harmonically. This is a recording with depth, one that will still be revealing its secrets after a half-dozen or a dozen hearings. The super audio hybrid sound from Germany's Ars Musici label is, well, super.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Stabat Mater, in 5 parts
1 3:16
2 3:49
Domine Exaudi Orationem Meam, in 4 parts
3 3:24
Domine Exaudi Orationem Meam, in 4 part
4 6:22
Domine Exaudi Orationem Meam, in 4 parts
5 3:27
Pater Noster / Ave Maria, in 6 parts
6 5:12
7 3:09
Déploration, in 5 parts
8 3:15
9 1:40
Benedicta Es, Caelorum Regina
10 4:15
11 1:11
12 1:24
Miserere Mei Deus, in 5 parts
13 6:16
14 4:47
15 5:32
blue highlight denotes track pick