Josquin Desprez / Ensembles vocaux Biscantor et Métamorphoses
Vol. 10, Josquin et St. Quentin — Messes Malheur me bat et L'ami Baudichon

[12.1.2022] |

Ar Ré-Sé 2021-2
Release date: 2021

Messe Malheur me bat
1. Kyrie  [3:49]
2. Gloria [6:01]
3. Credo [7:17]
4. Sanctus [11:06]
5. Agnus Dei [10:55]

Messe L'ami Baudichon
6. Kyrie [3:01]
5. Gloria [6:40]
8. Credo [10:02]
9. Sanctus [7:24]
10. Agnus Dei [4:39]


[15.1.2022] Remarks
12 January 2022
Todd M. McComb


So a couple of Josquin Year items that I hadn't reviewed are Volumes 9 & 10 of Maurice Bourbon's series of Josquin Masses. These issues apparently complete that series (& it's ten volumes instead of nine, as per the Tallis Scholars & Vocal Ensemble Cappella series, because some of Bourbon's own music is included on a couple of volumes, although not these...), but I also wasn't able to peruse the liner notes, so don't know e.g. recording dates.

That suggests a brief digression here: Especially the past couple of years, I've moved more into listening to downloads, not only because of the cost (& this site takes in less money than ever these days... while no one really makes money recording this music, either), but because of the material consequences involved in packaging, shipping, etc. And then the downside is that downloads don't always include liner notes — which can be especially frustrating for a project such as this.

In any case, I was indeed able to audition the remainder of Bourbon's series, if not to know some details. And of course, it's difficult not to turn to the Tallis Scholars series as a sort of reference for a similar project... not that I love everything about that series, but since it restarted, it simply offers the clearest articulation of most of these masses. While the "defects" in the sound, i.e. modern breath support & consequently sometimes strident blend around sopranos, are also found — if not more so — with Bourbon's group....

So in that sense, these series are comparable, and then, particularly by the end, the Tallis Scholars articulates everything so clearly, which I really appreciate, even if I don't really love their sound, while Bourbon is playing more with personal conductorial flourishes.... (And I feel as though the former needs to happen more regularly, or at all, before the latter starts making sense....)

So what this basically means for me is that e.g. Bourbon's L'homme armé disc has been worthwhile, since the Tallis Scholars interpretation of that program is quite dated/eccentric (from the 1980s). I also find these later issues from Bourbon to be generally more forceful in their sweep, at least at times, but meandering or murky at others... often stylized (e.g. per typical contemporary choral approaches). But it's also worth hearing other takes on these masses, and Bourbon (originally an engineer...) has remained committed (& with a relatively big, spatialized sound by the end). It's not as though I consider any of the current readings to be amazing... just more steps in a process of interpretive discovery. Josquin's major mass cycles continue to be challenging music to understand & render, and these interpretations do develop a (somewhat coy) personality....