It had been decades since Peter Phillips' and his Tallis Scholars made a new recording of masses by Josquin. Their first Josquin disc coupling his Missa Pange lingua and his Missa La sol fa re mi was released in 1986 and their second coupling both his Masses based on the L'homme armé tune was released in 1989, but this coupling of his Missa Sine nomine and Missa Ad fugam was released 20 years later in 2008. In the event, it was worth the wait. Although five of the group's eight singers have changed since the last release -- only soprano Sally Dunkley and basses Donald Grieg and Francis Steele remain from the earlier group -- the Tallis Scholars are still a model of the mixed gender approach to Renaissance music. Most of the credit for this, of course, should go to Phillips, whose emphasis on beauty of tone, clarity of textures, excellence of enunciation, and smoothness of ensemble has not altered since he founded the group in 1973.
In these two Masses, Josquin's only works in the form entirely based on canons, Phillips' Scholars produce performances of exemplary lucidity, incredible intensity, and amazing virtuosity. One can hear everything going on in the works set forth in exactly the right balance between line and harmony. But, better yet, one can feel the emotional dedication and the spiritual commitment of both the music and the musicians. If the listener is a fan of Renaissance sacred music, this disc will be additional proof that Josquin's music embodies the infinite. And if the listener is a neophyte to Renaissance sacred music, this disc will be all the proof needed to show that his music can embody the infinite. But for Josquin fans, the biggest reason to check out this disc is simple: while the Missa Sine nominee is well known and frequently recorded, the Missa Ad fugam has not heretofore received a digital recording, and thus will be mandatory for collectors. As has always been the case for the Tallis Scholars, Gimell's digital sound is clear, deep, honest, and true.